Hotchkiss girls repeat as 2A XC champions

COLORADO SPRINGS — When Hotchkiss High School cross-country coach Kelly Cowan addressed the school’s student body during a Friday send-off for the team’s trip to the state meet, he told the assembly, “This is a special group.”

The Bulldog girls backed up their coach’s claim in style Saturday, winning the Class 2A state team title with a trio of girls placing in the top eight.

Hotchkiss literally ran away with the team title, scoring 13 points to finish 20 points ahead of second-place Lyons.

Senior Natalie Anderson, as she has all season, led the way. Running in her fourth state cross-country meet, Anderson kept pace with the leader, Miriam Roberts of Lyons, through the first mile-and-a-half before Roberts pulled away on a downhill stretch of the 5,000-meter course at the Norris-Penrose Event Center.

“She opened up her stride, and I just couldn’t keep up,” Anderson said.

Rather than trying to reel Roberts back in, Anderson focused on staying in her own rhythm.

“I thought, ‘I want to try (to catch Roberts), but I don’t want to lose sight of (the) third (-place runner),’ ” Anderson said.

The plan worked. Although Roberts went on to win the race in 19 minutes, 44.3 seconds, Anderson took second, 48 seconds behind but nearly a half-minute ahead of third-place finisher Rachel Rairdon of Heritage Christian Academy.

Of her four years at the state meet — she placed third as a freshman and junior and fourth as a sophomore — Anderson said, “This has got to be my most satisfying.”

“I couldn’t ask for better team runners,” Anderson added. “There’s not a better team to practice with.”

Cowan said Anderson and fellow senior Jennifer Celis led the way all season in races and in practice.

“They just do so much on their own,” Cowan said. “It’s almost like having other coaches.”

Celis matched her fourth-place finish of last season, finishing in 21:02.5, two seconds behind Rairdon and 14 seconds ahead of a familiar opponent, Paonia senior Taylor Polson.

Celis spent most of the season feeding off Anderson’s pace. Not so Saturday.

“This race I wasn’t focused on Natalie,” Celis said, channeling her energies more on her own pace.

The Hotchkiss team scoring was completed by Anderson’s sister, Mae, a sophomore who placed eighth (21:24.9), one spot behind Telluride’s Anna Fake.

Hotchkiss also got a top-10 placer in the boys race: junior Andrew Tiedemann, who finished ninth in 17:34.2. Fellow Hotchkiss junior Tyrell Clock finished 28th (19:01.8) as the Bulldogs placed ninth out of 15 teams.

“We’re a big family,” Tiedemann said of the girls and boys training together. “I’m proud of (the girls). They really pulled off what they were supposed to.”

Perhaps more importantly, he added, they’ve given him the motivation to begin his training for next season.

Polson’s strong finish helped the Paonia girls place fourth in the team race with 40 points. Sophomore Chelsea Meilner was 11th (21:35.5) and senior Braiden Clement 35th (23:13.7) for the Eagles.

In other strong showings for the Western Slope, Crested Butte’s Forrest Smith was fifth and Telluride’s Jack Plantz placed sixth in the boys race.


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