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Niwot cross country underclassmen getting experience during early-season meets

NHS cross country head coach Kelly Christensen opted to roll with mostly freshmen and sophomore runners during Niwot’s first two meets of the season, giving them some valuable experience before the veterans take control.

Not only have the Cougars’ underclassmen gotten their feet wet, but they also littered the leaderboard during their first meet of the year on Aug. 27, at the Vista Nation XC 2-Mile Invitational in Highlands Ranch.

On both the girls and boys sides of the freshmen/sophomores-only race, the Cougars took first place overall and landed five runners within the top 10. The fastest Niwot boys were freshman Rocco Culpepper (second place) and sophomores Gavin Engtrakul (fourth), Keegan Geldean (fifth), Kye Toothaker (ninth) and Evan Kear (tenth). For the girls, freshman Anna Prok took second, followed by Addison Ritzenhein (third), Bella Nelson (fourth), Alena Kasanicky (sixth), Avalon Beltran (seventh) and Hayden Flynn (ninth).

Senior Miliana Barraza also finished second in the girls juniors/seniors event

Since over 70 of Niwot’s 104 total cross country athletes are underclassmen, Christensen allowed a few other youngsters to make the drive up to Cheyenne on Sept. 3 for the Wyoming Cross Country Invitational.

“Freshmen and sophomores who performed well last week (in Highlands Ranch) sat it out and just worked out,” Christensen said. “It (was) a good chance for some of our other kids to step into that leadership role and run as varsity members or potential varsity members and compete and represent.”

Niwot’s new-look boys and girls teams impressed with the Cougars taking third overall in the varsity boys race, first in the boys junior varsity race and fifth in the girls varsity. All three events were 5,000 meters.

Christensen said he was particularly proud of Geldean and fellow sophomore Will Lennert, who finished seventh and fifteenth, respectively, for boys varsity.

Just like the Vista Nation meet, five new Cougars graced the top 10 for boys JV: Zachary Hlavacek (first), Benjamin Whitcomb (fourth), Ryder Keeton (seventh), Sean Williams (ninth) and Duncan Atherton (tenth).

“The JV boys team won pretty easily with a bunch of freshmen, which was exciting,” Christensen said.

Sophomore Alena Kasanicky finished 22nd to lead the girls.

"(Kasanicky has) improved by quite a bit over last year's time,” Christensen said. “It was exciting to see her perform well. She's never been in a situation where she was our top girl before, so it was kind of fun for her, I'm sure, to come away as our top girl.”

Looking at the big picture, Christensen said that many of his girls have been ill recently, but he hopes that will resolve after homecoming. He believes the boys, meanwhile, have been more consistent.

Christensen expects to break out his more established varsity runners on Sept. 7 in the RE-1J District Meet at the Sunset Golf Course.


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