Top dogs |

Top dogs

Shane Macomber/Vail DailyFrom left, Battle Mountain's Erika Ghent (63), Jennifer Bowles (64), Melissa Hines and Leslie Peterson laugh, cry and hug as they celebrate their 4A state championship.

EAGLE-VAIL – Take a map of the state of Colorado and just color it black and gold.From Grand Junction in the west to Kanorado in the east, from Steamboat Springs in the north to Alamosa in the south, the best 4A girls cross country team in the Centennial State is Battle Mountain.All the hopes, expectations and hard work materialized Saturday down in Colorado Springs as the Huskies girls won the state title. “We are so proud of the kids,” said Huskies coach Rob Parish, who runs the team with Kelli Witter and Ashley Weaver. “They raced well. They ran well, but they believed in themselves, and they believed in the program. They were really pushed hard throughout the year, and they didn’t once question it. They put a lot of trust in the system. They put a lot of trust in the coaches. “They put in so much work. Then they entered the meet, and they were so focused. They were nervous, but they knew what they had to do, and they executed the plan perfectly,” Parish said.Battle Mountain’s girls came in with 117 points, well ahead of Thompson Valley (148), Mountain View (167) and Greeley Central (168).And don’t forget the guys. They posted a 10th-place finish, a school best for the boys’ program.”To finish 10th for the guys is just as wonderful an accomplishment as the girls,” Parish said. “We had so many question marks coming into the beginning (of the season), so many kids running cross country for the first year. To have the highest finish ever by a Battle Mountain (boys’) team is spectacular.”The girls’ state title was the first for the school since boys skiing won in 2001.

“It’s so much fun. That was our goal all year,” Leslie Peterson said. “We trained for it and worked for it, and it’s just so neat that a group of girls as close as we are can do that. It’s just such a blessing.””It’s just like the best feeling ever. It’s almost like a dream,” Erika Ghent said. “For us, it hasn’t sunken in yet.”Moreso, it is only Battle Mountain’s second non-skiing state title. The Huskies’ lone non-skiing title had previously been boys track in 1992.”It’s really fun, especially because we’re such a close team,” Christa Ghent said. “It really helps with everything. It’s a team sport for us. It’s just so much fun because of the team. Winning today was amazing.”Meet the champsYour state champions are Jen Bowles, Erika Ghent, Molly McGee, Christa Ghent, Leslie Peterson, Marit Johnson and Whitney Allard.Battle Mountain had a game plan for the state course and simply executed it to perfection. The ladies got out quickly to avoid traffic and moved up as they approached the two-mile mark. Then they simply put the hammer down as planned.”They crushed the last 400 meters,” Parish said.

Parish estimated that the Huskies picked up 25 points in that final stretch, turning a close race into a blowout.Bowles led the Huskies in third with a time of 19 minutes, 31 seconds.”(Erika and I) were together the first part and then I kind of died off in the middle of it,” Bowles said. “I was praying throughout the whole race. At the end, God gave me a second wind and it was all God.”Erika Ghent provided a little drama with a eighth place finish (17:42). To calm all the rumors that were flying at the Battle Mountain soccer game and volleyball tournament Saturday, she fainted at the end of the race.”I have never seen an athlete in a high school race do what Erika did,” Parish said. “She totally left everything she possibly had on the course. I respect her for so many reasons, especially taking a risk in the biggest of situations, to go out so hard for her team. At the end, she had nothing left.”More historyMcGee came in 31st with a time of 20:52. By doing so, McGee, a Vail Christian student, becomes the first Saint to win a state title.Christa Ghent was right behind in 35th (20:59), followed by Leslie Peterson (40th, 21:19).For Christa Ghent, it was a great day to be racing with her sister, Erika.

“She like started this thing,” Christa said. “She was pretty much the first person to go out for the girls’ team and really make it and build on it and have her friends come out. She got me to come out. She helps with everything. I like having her at the races because we have such a great bond. We’re like best friends.”Before the race, Parish said that Peterson was the key to the girls’ race. Peterson delivered. “When I crossed the second-mile marker and I knew I had to surge and that I had only one mile left. I intended to give it all I had,” she said. “Those last 800 meters I knew that was my area and that I could kick and do it.”Gents make historyAt the beginning of the season, the boys were an unknown. The team’s top-two runners, Grant Stevenson and Zach Erickson, graduated.These guys aren’t unknown now.The 2005 boys cross country team played a a game of “Anything you can do, we can do better.” Last year, the boys finished second at regionals. This year, the team won regionals. Last year, the boys were 11th at state. This year? Tenth.”I think it was more motivational that we lost them,” Jake Ball said. “Now we were just like, ‘Oh, we’ve just got to step it up now that those two are gone.'”

Jonny Stevens put on a clinic, finishing ninth in 16:42, a very fast time for the state course.”Jonny Stevens’ race was amazing,” Parish said. “He was anywhere between 14th and 15th through the first and second mile. Then, he surged at two miles. He pick up a couple of runners coming through the stretch. To finish ninth in 4A?”To put it in perspective, he was the second sophomore in 4A and he finished behind only four seniors. To top it off, he went off and played a hockey game after the meet.”It was pretty sweet,” Ball said. “To see Jonny come in at ninth was awesome.”Ball should be tooting his own horn, he was second for the Huskies’ boys at 17:42.”At the start, I wasn’t feeling too good,” Ball said “At first, I just tried to stay with Lorenzo (Macias), but after the hill and the mile marker, I caught up with Shea (Phelan) and we came through the two-(mile mark) at the same time. We felt pretty good at the time and that’s when I took Shea. We both pulled each other along well.”Phelan, in his first season of cross country, was five seconds behind Ball.”Parish did a real good job of putting the team together,” Phelan said. “We had a couple guys who stepped up big to the plate like John O’Neill, Lorenzo today, who stepped in as a freshman and came in as our fourth guy, Jamie Fahrmayer from Eagle (Valley) and guys like Sparky (Ben Rogers) have always been solid.Macias was the surprise of the day, running for the injured O’Neill. He was Battle Mountain’s fourth runner, finishing in 18:15. Parish called him “the hero of the day.”

Fahrmayer rounded out the scoring for the Huskies with an 18:20. Rogers finished 116th (18:26) and Ryan Walker was 147th (18:55).The futureThe scary thought with the boys is that they’ve only just begun. These guys are young and are going to get better in the years to come.”The boys have an amazing future ahead of them,” Parish said. “The best thing is that they are all excited about the sport and are excited about training hard which is key.””I think these guys are awesome,” Phelan, a senior said. “Jonny, everybody knows, is going to be phenomenal. He’s just getting so much better so fast. I can’t wait to see what these guys are going to do.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614, or, Colorado

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