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Niwot sweeps team titles at Fairview Invitational

Series: Niwot cross country | Story 8

September 16, 2020

Jocelyn Rowley

Niwot freshman Mia Prok initially trailed Ella Johns of Fort Collins during the Fairview Invitational, but caught up to her about midway through, before leaving her behind for good.

The Niwot varsity cross country teams looked formidable as they battled some friendly but fierce rivals at the Fairview Invitational on Sept. 12. Led by junior Zane Bergen in the boys race and freshman standout Mia Prok in the girls race, the Cougars claimed both team titles for the second consecutive weekend, and appear to be in great shape as they head into the most crucial weeks of the shortened 2020 season, according to head coach Kelly Christensen.

"The kids are responding to the stress we're putting on them in training, and that's always encouraging to see in two good groups," he said after the double sweep, both by wide point spreads. "The middle of the season for our juniors and seniors right now, it's hit or miss on how they're going to feel because they're dealing with a little more volume, intensity, and stress."

This meet replaces the annual Pat Patten Invitational, a 5K where a large and competitive field races on a course in the park adjacent to Fairview High School. With the City of Boulder restricting public park access, this year's course wound around the high school and athletic fields, and the field was limited to just eight teams apiece.


The eye-popping performance of Niwot freshman Mia Prok was probably the biggest news of the meet, though it didn't lead to much drama at the finish. In a repeat of her performance at the Battle Mountain Husky Invitational on Sept. 5, the standout opened up a big gap over her more experienced competitors about halfway through the race in Boulder, and cruised to a win in 18 minutes, 33 seconds, a full 30 seconds ahead of the second place finisher, sophomore Ella Johns of Fort Collins. Afterwards, Christensen was understandably pleased with the newcomer's time, but has cautioned her to exercise more patience on the course.

"I wanted her to wait a little longer," Christensen said of Prok's run. "Today's goal was to be patient, and I tell that to all the girls, just wait a little longer, so you're a little uncomfortable with what's happening and then respond. She'll learn, I think, after today, that it's okay to wait a little longer."

Among those in the closest pack chasing Prok were all of her Niwot teammates, led by senior Lucca Fulkerson, who finished third overall (19:19.40) as a follow-up to a fourth-place finish at Battle Mountain. Next was junior Eva Klingbeil, who provided a dash of drama for the girls when she kicked down the stretch to overcome Maggie McCleskey of Centaurus and capture fourth for Niwot. Klingbeil was followed by sophomore Maddie Schults (20:11.9) in seventh, freshman Sarah Perkins (20:22.70) in eighth, and junior Amelia Philofsky in 12th. The Cougars finished with 23 points in the team standings, more than 50 points better than second-place Fairview.


If the girls race lacked drama, the boys race more than made up for it, courtesy of Niwot junior Zane Bergen and his close friend and training partner James Overberg of Centaurus. The two battled for the lead during most of the race, along with Lukas Haug of Boulder, another member of the training group, and Henry Murphy of Fairview, who made the first move into the lead. Murphy and Haug fell back before the final stretch, and Overberg opened up a sizable lead over Bergen with the finish line in sight. That's when Bergen told himself to "shut the brain off and just let the legs go, and see what would happen." What happened is that the junior caught up to his senior rival, and narrowly missed beating him at the finish line. Bergen fell just two-tenths of a second short, finishing in 16:13.80 to Overberg's 16.13.60.

"I was hoping for it to work out, but that's okay," Bergen said, adding that he is satisfied with second place if it meant a team victory.

For his part, Christensen thought the finish was "awesome" because of the close relationship between the top three placers. When track practice was abruptly halted in March, the three got together to train in lieu of team practice, and kept it up until cross country season began in August.

Jocelyn Rowley

Around the halfway point of the boys race at the Fairview Invitational on Sept. 12, Henry Murphy of Fairview made a move into the lead over Zane Bergen, James Overberg, and Lukas Haug that he couldn't maintain.

"It was just cool seeing those three out there running hard, along with Henry. I think whoever made the first move today was going to end up where Henry did, so we have to thank him for doing that. But Zane ran great, and that was about what we expected."

As in the girls race, the rest of the Niwot boys finished in quick succession behind Bergen, with senior Grayden Rauba (16:54.10) in seventh, junior Joey Hendershot in eighth (16:55.60), senior Curtis Volf (16:68.80) in ninth, senior Joaquin Herrera (17:02.00) in 10th and sophomore Carlos Kipkorir (17:13.80) in 12th. The Cougars scored 36 points on the day, beating second-place Centaurus by more than 20 points.

Niwot cross country will be back in action for the weekly district meets on Sept. 16 and 18, followed by the St. Vrain Invitational at Lyons High on Sept. 19.


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