A run in the mud
Poor weather doesn't bother Paonia's Polson in first win
A wet, muddy course on a cold day won’t invigorate most runners.
But those conditions Thursday afternoon at Riverbend Park in Palisade, courtesy of steady rain earlier in the day, were tailor-made for Taylor Polson. The Paonia senior was the first cross-country runner to cross the finish line during the varsity girls race of the District 51 Championships.
“For whatever reason, I love running in horrible conditions,” said Polson, a three-time Class 2A state qualifier.
Running fast and kicking up mud isn’t new for Polson, but winning is. She said Thursday was her first win in a cross-country race, and she did it by 13 seconds.
That surprised her, because Polson said she had run in several meets this season in which Grand Junction also ran, and she said there was a Grand Junction runner who always finished ahead of her.
That Tigers runner is Clarissa Berry, who took second Thursday, helping Grand Junction take the team title with 38 points, 27 ahead of runner-up Fruita Monument. Berry was one of five Tigers in the top 13 and seven in the top 20.
Polson ran the 5,000-meter course in 21 minutes, 18.82 seconds, a far cry from her best time of 19:30, but she added, “I’m really happy with it, with the mud and everything today.”
Grand Junction coach Kim Dobson said her runners didn’t worry about times Thursday. Rather, they focused on place, pacing themselves early, being cautious in the slick conditions, then pushing hard in the final, grassy stretch of the course to pass as many runners as they could.
“They ran really well and accomplished our goal,” Dobson said, adding the race is a good tune-up for next week’s Class 5A Region 2 meet in Aurora, where the Tigers will be trying to qualify for state as a team.
Berry finished second in 21:32.46, teammate Cassandra Grigware was fourth in 22:12.09, and Erika Meister was seventh in 22:20.01.
Seniors Chuck Bisbee of Fruita Monument and Greg Eccher of Grand Junction didn’t go all-out in their final high school cross-country meet in the Grand Valley, but they still went fast enough to finish 1-2 in the boys race.
The two were smiling and holding hands as they crossed the finish line together, although Bisbee was a step ahead in 17:04.2 to Eccher’s 17:04.49.
Bisbee said Eccher let him have this race, just like Bisbee gave the win to Eccher in a preseason scrimmage race.
“The plan was to go out with Greg and work hard, but not necessarily a full-out race effort,” Bisbee said. “It wasn’t like we were taking it super easy. ... It’s a good course to work. It’s a challenging course.”
Like the Grand Junction girls, the Fruita Monument boys were focused on getting primed for the regional. The Wildcats finished second to Eagle Valley by three points in the boys race, placing five runners in the top 16 to total 49 points.
Keaton Brown was the second Wildcat to finish, placing seventh in 17:59.56, one place and nearly 22 seconds behind Grand Junction’s No. 2 runner, Allen Adair.
Fruita Monument coach Herb Huskey said getting runners ready for the regional was the primary objective of every coach Thursday, and they warned their runners to be cautious because of the mud and holes on the course.
“The course got a little messed up,” Huskey said. “There was a little caution running today.
“I did ask (my runners) to be a little bit smart. The big one is next week. Don’t get hurt. ... Nobody got hurt. That’s the name of the game.”