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By Jocelyn Rowley

Cross Country: Niwot teams take first at the CSU Frontier Academy Invitational


September 6, 2017

The Niwot Cougars cross country teams kicked-off their 2017 season Aug. 25 at the Vista Nation XC 2-Mile Invitational in Highlands Ranch. Both Niwot varsity teams finished fourth on the day, with the girls just five points out of second place. Overall, Niwot head coach Kelly Christensen was cheered by the results, although he acknowledged the boys’ performance was “a little flat,” mostly due to a recent spate of illness and minor injuries.

“Comparing it to last year, we’re light years ahead of where we were,” said the second-year head coach. “We closed the gap bigtime on some really good teams.”

Freshman Taylor James was the fastest Niwot girl on the day, finishing with a time of 12 minutes, 25 seconds, which was good for ninth place. Junior Maggie Smith (12:51), who has been following a “conservative” training plan in order to recover from a long term injury, took 18th, while sophomore Joelle McDonald (12:54) was right on her heels in 19th place.

Freshman Annabelle Huddle (13:07) and senior Jeri Wilcox (13:08) were 26th and 27th, while junior Mallory Finley (14:02) and sophomore Elise Gillett (14:21) took 55th and 59th, respectively. The Cougars finished with 99 points on the day, just five behind second-place Palmer Ridge.

Over on the boys’ side, the Cougars were paced by sophomore Cruz Culpepper who finished in 10:25, earning him ninth place overall. Culpepper, whose training has been hampered lately by illness and growing pains, ran with the leaders for most of the race, but was slowed by cramping after the first mile, and fell out of the top five at the end.

Niwot newcomer Ares Reading (10:37), another victim of illness, took 15th place. Senior Kenny Lang, who is “getting his running legs back” after a summer spent cycling, was 33rd (10:50). Nevertheless, the Cougars finished the day with 116 points, beating crosstown rival Silver Creek, which finished in sixth place with 147 points.

“Things didn’t really go our way, but we still ran well,” said Christensen, noting that Niwot also bested Discovery Canyon, another perennial state title contender. “Our depth really showed. That’s where I know we’re really strong.”

Both teams came up big a week later at the CSU Frontier Academy Invitational in Fort Collins. Led by Reading, the boys had four of the meet’s 10 fastest times, and just 41 seconds divided Niwot’s first and fifth place racers. For Christensen, this depth will be the key to a strong finish down the stretch.

“We had a target of less than 45, and this was without Kenny running,” explained the coach. “If we can do that the whole year, we’ll be right in there at the end.”

Reading turned some heads with his fourth-place overall finish in 16:33. Three other Cougars also took a top spot, including senior Ethan Steiner (16:45) in seventh, and Culpepper (16:55), who came in ninth. Unfortunately, the freshman was once again plagued by pain in the last part of the race, which knocked him out of medal contention down the stretch.

The girls also nabbed their first meet win of the season with individual results that largely mirrored the boys’, at least in the top-10. James (19:44) took fourth overall, followed by Smith (20:09) in seventh, and McDonald (20:42) in ninth. They finished with 45 team points on the day, and had a 1-5 split time of 1:31.

“The focus for the girls’ team was to have a better second half of the race and run more controlled in the first half,” said Christensen. “They did a great job of that.”

On Sep. 1, the Cougars head for Ft. Collins for the CSU Frontier Invitational, followed by the Liberty Bell Invitational at Heritage High School in Littleton on Sep. 8.

Vista Nation XC 2-Mile Invitational, Aug. 25

Niwot Individuals (boys) — 9. Cruz Culpepper (So.), 10:25; 15. Ares Reading (Jr.), 10:37; 33. Kenny Lang (Sr.), 10:50; 35. Benjamin Bi (Sr.), 10:52; 28. Ethan Steiner (Sr.), 10:53; 40. Jack Volf (Jr.), 11:06; 59. Peter LeCavalier (Sr.), 11:26; 66. Kamran Elahi (Jr.), 11:37

Niwot Individuals (girls) — 9. Taylor James (Fr.), 12:25; 18. Maggie Smith (Jr.), 12:51; 19. Joelle McDonald (So.), 12:54; Annabelle Huddle (Fr.), 13:07; 27. Jeri Wilcox (Sr.), 13:08; 55. Mallory Finley (So.), 14:02; 59. Elise Gillett (So.), 14:21

CSU Frontier Academy Invitational, Sep. 1

Niwot Individuals (boys) — 4. Ares Reading (Jr.), 16:33; 7. Ethan Steiner (Sr.), 16:45; 9. Cruz Culpepper (So.), 16:55; 10. Oskar Wells (Sr.), 17:12; 11. Benjamin Bi (Sr.), 17:14; 18. Kamran Elahi (Jr.), 17:51; 21. Jack Volf (Jr.), 17:57

Niwot Individuals (girls) — 4. Taylor James (Fr.), 19:44; 7. Maggie Smith (Jr.), 20:09; 9. Joelle McDonald (So.), 20:42; 11. Jeri Wilcox (Sr.), 20:51; 14. Annabelle Huddle (Fr.), 21:15; 13:08; 37. Mallory Finley (So.), 23:06; 49. Elise Gillett (So.), 23:39


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