Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Young runners face test at Centaurus


September 7, 2018

Jocelyn Rowley

At the start of the girls race at the Centaurus Warriors Invite on Sep. 1.

Fresh off their head-turning performances at the season-opening Vista Nation 2-Mile on Aug. 24, Niwot’s top distance runners stepped aside for their underclass teammates at the Centaurus Warriors Invite on Sept. 1.

For Cougars head coach Kelly Christensen, it was an exciting glimpse into the future of his program, as well as a way to solidify his 2018 varsity lineup.

“They’re all ready, physically,” he said of the runners still competing for the remaining spots on the varsity roster. “It’s the mindset, and seeing which ones rise to the occasion. You always get a few surprises that get the concept of effort and leaving it all on the course. And we’ve got a lot of coaching up to do with some.”

But for Christensen, the outcome of the boys race may have left him with more questions than answers.

Niwot took fifth in the 29-team field, led by junior Caleb Bishop, whose time of 17 minutes 29 seconds on the 5K course around Waneka Lake was good for 27th overall. Juniors Luke Robinson and Jack Kenkel also finished under 18 minutes, followed by juniors Rayan Elahi (18:14) and Ethan Jiang (18:15), freshman Joey Hendershot (18:16), and sophomore Simon Saia (18:36).

It was the junior varsity race that really caught Christensen’s attention, however. Niwot freshman Zane Bergen paced the Cougars to a second-place overall finish with a winning time of 18:08, faster than half of Niwot’s varsity runners. Right behind him was junior Ben Klingbeil (18:08) in second and sophomore Joaquin Herrera (18:21) in third.

“Pretty much anyone in that varsity race is gunning for the fifth, sixth or seventh spot,” Christensen said. “What was exciting is that those three boys in the JV race showed that we actually have closer to 10 guys fighting for those spots.”

The girls race was marred when Niwot sophomore Annabelle Huddle was felled by a serious hip injury and had to be transported from the course by ambulance. Her return to the team is uncertain. It also leaves Christensen with one more roster spot to fill.

Filling one of the top spots will be sophomore Taylor James, one of only two Niwot state qualifiers to compete at Centaurus. She missed part of the summer conditioning season, and is still regaining her speed. James took fourth place overall, with a time of 19:31, followed by freshman Eva Klingbeil (20:35) in 25th and Eva Lennart (20:54) in 39th. In the JV race, sophomore Tessa Everett (22:19) took 10th overall for the Cougars to lead the team to sixth place.

Up next for Niwot is the Liberty Bell Invitational on Sept. 8, one of the most highly anticipated running events on the Colorado high school calendar. There, Christensen expects to see his runners pick up where they left off at the Vista 2-Mile two weeks ago.

Jocelyn Rowley

Junior Caleb Bishop (left) and junior Jack Kenkel competed for Niwot at the Centaurus Warriors Invite at Waneka Lake Park on Sep. 1. Bishop was 27th overall, and Kenkel finished 45th.

“We had plenty of things that could have gone better, but overall, it’s the best I’ve ever had any teams run, even when I was at Palmer Ridge,” he said of his team’s performance at the exclusive early season race, which included host Mountain Vista, last year’s Class 5A champions, Peak to Peak, the 3A champions, and the dreaded Valor Christian.

The boys finished second in the team standings, just four points behind winner Mountain Vista, while the girls took fourth. Individually, Niwot junior Cruz Culpepper finished first overall, setting a new course record of 9:58, and junior Samwrit Dishon was third overall for the girls, just seven seconds behind Jenna Fitzsimmons, winner of the 2017 state title.

At the Liberty Bell, the Cougars will once again have a chance to compete against those top programs, and Christensen hopes to see his team make another bold statement.

“I’m hoping no one gets the sniffles or shin splints,” he said. “We’ll uncork, and see where we’re at.”


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