Hotchkiss girls run to 2A cross country title
COLORADO SPRINGS — Kelly Cowan knew he had a couple of special runners on his Hotchkiss girls cross country team as it entered fall practice in August.
“After a race or two when I saw what the younger kids could do, I had a feeling,” the Bulldogs coach said of the potential for his squad.
The team fully lived up to that potential Saturday, winning the Class 2A title at the CHSAA State Cross Country Championships.
“That was special,” Cowan said after watching four of his runners place in the top 11 at the Norris Penrose Event Center.
Junior Natalie Anderson led the way for the Bulldogs, placing third and finishing 30 seconds behind the individual champion, Rachel Hampton of Telluride, a runner with whom Anderson is quite familiar after having competed against her all season.
Anderson finished one spot ahead of teammate Jennifer Celis.
The top three finishers for each team counted toward the team score in 2A, and freshman Sophia Schelle sealed the deal for Hotchkiss by placing 10th, one spot ahead of fellow Bulldog Mae Anderson.
Cowan said the runners had a tendency to let little things get to them this season.
“Quit worrying about everything. It’s just another race here,” he told his team before the start.
“We were individual-oriented, but we knew as a team we could do well,” Natalie Anderson said.
Tiffany Clock rounded out the Hotchkiss effort by placing 25th.
All five team members credit their spirituality with giving them confidence and bringing them closer together.
“I’m thankful we’re a Christian team,” Celis said.
This is the first season Cowan can remember a Hotchkiss team not including a runner from Paonia, which fielded its own team this season, or Cedaredge.
“It’s very rewarding with this bunch,” he said.
Hampton and Crested Butte Community School runner Amber Scott pulled away from the field at the two-mile mark. Hampton, whose father Keith is the team’s head coach, finished 26 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Miriam Roberts of Lyons.
Hampton, a senior who finished fourth in last year’s state meet, had her running curtailed last spring with a broken foot.
“It was awful,” she said of missing the track season and her training time. She didn’t begin running again until August.
She helped Telluride to a third-place team finish, one spot ahead of Paonia, which was led by Taylor Polson’s eighth-place finish.
Telluride placed second in the boys race with Jack Plantz taking fourth and Dylan Newell fifth to lead the Miners.
Hotchkiss was fourth, with Andrew Tiedemann finishing ninth to pace the Bulldogs.
Cleo Whiting of Delta edged out her twin sister, Clarissa, at the finish line to take 10th in the girls race in 19:48. Clarissa Whiting was 11th in 19:56.4, and Palisade freshman Greta Van Calcar was 12th in 20:00.1.
After placing 38th in last year’s state race, she was shooting for a spot on the podium as a top-10 finisher.
“That was my goal,” Cleo said.
Nearly every runner commented that, unlike in past state meets, this was more of a true cross country course.
“I’m glad it was,” Cleo said. “I like that course a lot. It was fun.”
Durango’s Shannon Maloney finished third in a race won by one-tenth of a second by Niwot’s Elise Cranny.
Montrose finished 22nd in the 30-team girls field, led by the Indians’ lone senior, Dana Shellhorn, who finished 45th in 21:03.5.
Palisade’s boys team placed 29th out of 30 teams with junior Anders Van Calcar running to the top Bulldog finish at 103rd. Montrose was 30th, paced by junior Hayden Cook, who finished 175th out of 224 runners.
Charlie Medina had the strongest finish for the Grand Junction boys, taking 22nd place. Greg Eccher placed 71st as the Tigers took 21st as a team.
The boys race began with a restart after a runner fell in the first 100 meters.
“That threw me off (because) I had a really good start,” Medina said.
Nonetheless, “I liked the course,” he said. “It challenged everybody.”
Grand Valley’s Rocio Roman finished 76th in the 3A girls race, and Olathe’s Destiny Perry finished 104th in the 126-runner field.