Vail Valley preps: Huskies harriers take 12th at state
FORT COLLINS, Colorado – It was a great race, and that was all for which Battle Mountain cross country could ask.
Seventy 4A teams started the season in August. Twenty-five made Saturday’s state meet in Fort Collins, and when the dust settled, the Huskies’ boys took 12th.
Yes, regional-rival Moffat beat the Huskies, finishing ninth, but Battle Mountain ran its best against the best and that does the trick.
“It’s pretty funny, but we didn’t talk about Moffat after the race,” Huskies coach Ken Long said. “Everyone felt like they ran a great race. We had a lot of (personal records). They beat us, whatever. We’re just happy with a 12th-place finish.”
Junior David Shearon led the boys with a ninth-place finish with a time of 16 minutes, 32.67 seconds, while Amelia Ortiz, the Huskies lone female runner, took 24th in 19:54.64.
Past and future
Battle Mountain had quite the crowd, including notable alumni in John O’Neill, Ryan Walker, Conor Wallace, Charles Gladitsch and Jamie Lee Roberts. They served as a reminder of Huskies cross country’s history (girls state champs in 2005, followed by the boys in 2006-07), as well as a cheering section throughout the course.
“I was psyched to see the alumni there,” Shearon said. “It’s great to hear them running along with us, shouting our names. It was awesome to see all the people you used to run with still caring about how you did.”
If you wanted to cheer on Shearon, you had to be quick. Having run a 17:44 in the season-opening race on the state course, Shearon’s goal was to break to 16:30 Saturday. He came within 2.67 seconds.
Gut-check time came in the last 500 meters of his race as the athletes took the lone hill on the course and then headed for home on a 150-meter straight-away. Long, who was ducking in and out of portions of the course during both the boys’ and girls’ races, made eye contact, with Shearon and yelled out “You’re ninth.”
For a slight moment, Long wasn’t sure if Shearon had the juice to hold off a pack behind him going into the final stretch. The junior answered with a strong closing kick.
“I was just thinking, ‘I know there are people behind me,'” Shearon said. “I was hurting. I’m not going to lie to you. It tough finish and I went as strong as I could to the finish. I went pretty well.”
Yep. By finishing ninth, Shearon is the first Battle Mountain junior to crack the top 10 since some guy named Jonny Stevens finished sixth in 2006, which is nice company.
“All of (the alumni) were giving him mad props,” Long said. “That is pretty sweet from guys who have done it before.”
One of the intriguing things looking at Battle Mountain’s finishes is that four of the team’s five scorers return next year.
Mitch Walker, a junior, blazed to 50th in 18:26. Junior Remsen Allard cracked 18 minutes with a 17:50.07. Eric Gallagher, the lone senior scorer, ran a brisk 18:07.52. Freshman David Suarez made his first state appearance with an 18:49.62.
“Who knows what we’re going to do next year? It’s going to be interesting to see,” Long said. “We’re a young team and the guys got a taste of it and what the possibilities are. It’s a good, hungry group.”
Lest we forget, Ortiz, a junior as well, was back at state, and she cracked 20 minutes on the state course, logging a 23-second improvement there from last year’s state meet.
In her third state appearance, Ortiz clocked a 19:54.64.
“Top-25 is awesome,” Long said. “She ran a good race. She battled through it. She looked strong.”
And in a nice twist, Ortiz edged out Moffat’s Erin Leonard by 11 seconds. The Bulldogs’ freshman edged Ortiz at regionals in Aspen two weeks ago.
While the possibilities of next year are endless – not only with the boys, but the girls have a shot at going to state as a team – Saturday was also farewell to three seniors on the boys’ side.
Gallagher, Eric Spry and Tommy Crisofulli ran their final races for Battle Mountain.
“I’m going to miss everyone of those guys,” Long said. “Those guys have just been a great influence, no matter where they finished. They are just good people to be around.”