Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Cross Country: Reading and Smith lead their teams to top-ten finishes


November 2, 2017

Jocelyn Rowley

Ares Reading pulls ahead of Greeley Central's Simon Kelati in the final 100 yards of the Class 4A Championship race at Norris-Penrose.

Following his team’s fourth-place finish at the Class 4A State cross country meet last Saturday, Niwot junior Benjamin Bi couldn’t hide his frustration.

“We could have done a lot better,” said the junior, who finished 28th with a time of 16 minutes, 38 seconds. “I think we choked a little bit. There really isn’t anything else. We prepared all year. It just wasn’t our day.”

Buoyed by a strong performance at the Regional meet in Lyons, the Cougars had their sights set on a top-three finish on the Norris-Penrose course in Colorado Springs. But the older, more experienced teams from Silver Creek, Centaurus and Palmer Ridge were not going to be denied.

“Part of what we’ve developed culturally is to dream big,” said Niwot head coach Kelly Christensen following the race. “We had some big goals today, and I think they’re just a little disappointed that they didn’t execute the races.”

Led by junior Ares Reading in 11th place, the Niwot boys scored 141 points on the day, well behind Centaurus (100) and Silver Creek (103). With 77 points, Palmer Ridge, Christensen’s former team, won its second straight Class 4A team title, their third in four years.

“We didn’t have our best day, for sure,” Christensen admitted. “Ares ran really, really, really good, and a couple of our juniors stepped up—Ben Bi and Jack Volf ran really, really great. And the others just didn’t have it.”

Reading’s time of 16:14 was 22 seconds behind Cole Sprout of Valor Christian, who won the individual state title with a time of 15:42. Bi was next, followed by Volf (16:44) in 31st, senior Oskar Wells (16:48) in 36th, and sophomore Cruz Culpepper (16:55) in 44th. Out of the team scoring were seniors Kenny Lang (17:16) in 70th and Ethan Steiner (17:42) in 97th.

In the girls’ race, a slow start hampered the Cougars and nudged them out of the top five in the team scoring. Niwot came in sixth overall with 204 points, well behind title winner Battle Mountain (59). Junior Maggie Smith was the fastest Niwot finisher, with a time of 19:24, good for 22nd place overall. Freshman Taylor James (19:25) was right behind her in 25th, followed by Joelle McDonald (19:38) in 32nd, Samrawit Dishon (20:25) in 62nd, and senior Jeri Wilcox (20:25) in 63rd. Freshman Annabelle Huddle (20:31) was 68th and Mallory Finley (22.18) was 127th.

“On the girls’ side, the execution of the race just did not go the way we planned,” Christensen said. “I think their efforts were great and I think they’re happy with their efforts, but it’s a chaotic place to run and in that first thousand meters, if you’re not reasonably where you should be by the finish line it’s really hard to work your way through. But the girls ran way better than they did last year and they fought.”

Ultimately, Christensen said, failing to reach their goals had taught both teams some valuable lessons, even though it may take awhile for the sting to wear off, particularly for the boys.

“Keeping that culture piece is going to be pretty tough after today,” he said of his boys squad, which will return four of its top five finishers next year. “It’s something they’ll have to process a lot as a team. They’re going to be hungry pretty quick, but I think it’s going to be a long weekend for the guys.”

As for the girls team, four of its top five runners will also be returning next year, as will all but one of their seven state qualifiers. “We learned a lot today. Part of that will be where I position myself next year on the course, just to make sure they know, because they’re young and it’s a nerve-wracking race.”

Christensen said he would not change how he prepared his teams for the race, even with the dissatisfying outcome. “I think I needed to see what I saw today to really know how to coach these kids in the future.”

If the Niwot runners were hoping for a break, it will be short lived. Several Cougars will be competing in the Nike Cross Southwest Regionals in Phoenix, Arizona on November 18, and Christensen is planning to resume workouts this week.

10/28 — Class 4A State Cross Country Championship, Norris-Penrose Event Center, Colo. Springs

Boys Top-Ten Team scores — Palmer Ridge 77, Centaurus 100, Silver Creek 103, Niwot 141, Air Academy 173, Durango 189, Cheyenne Mountain 210, Discovery Canyon 220, Pine Creek 264, Valor Christian 287

Jocelyn Rowley

Niwot's Maggie Smith runs for the finish line ahead of Golden and Battle Mountain runners at the Class 4A Championships.

Niwot individuals — 11. Ares Reading, 16:14; 28. Benjamin Bi, 16:38; 31. Jack Volf, 16:44; 36. Oskar Wells, 16:48; 44. Cruz Culpepper, 16:55; 70. Kenny Lang, 17:16; 97. Ethan Steiner, 17:42;

Girls Top-Ten Team scores — Battle Mountain 59, Palmer Ridge 157, Durango 168, Air Academy 185, Valor Christian 200, Niwot 204, Golden 223, Discovery Canyon 246, Centaurus 255, Pine Creek 256.

Niwot individuals — 25. Maggie Smith, 19:24.1; 28. Taylor James, 19:25.7; 37. Joelle McDonald, 19:38.8; 70. Samrawit Dishon, 20:25.3; 71. Jeri Wilcox, 20:25.4; 76. Annabelle Huddle, 20:31.4; 140. Mallory Finley, 22:18.6.


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