Strong start helps Bulldogs’ Erickson capture Anna Banana Invite boys title

Palisade’s Jake Erickson crosses the finish line Saturday to win the boys race in 15 minutes, 48.2 seconds at the Anna Banana Invitational at Connected Lakes State Park.

Jake Erickson got off to a great start, then sauntered back and got off to another great start.

The Palisade senior and the rest of the boys cross-country runners at the annual Anna Banana Invitational had to endure a restart after a runner fell near the start.

“I did not like that at all. I was in the zone and ready to go,” Erickson said.

Once he got motoring, Erickson broke open a tight, four-way battle to win the boys race with a sizzling time of 15 minutes, 48.2 seconds.

Grand Junction’s Greg Eccher was second at 16:02.0, followed by Telluride’s Jack Plantz at 16:13.3 and Fruita Monument’s Chuck Bisbee at 16:14.3.

Erickson said his training prepared him for the fast, 5-kilometer course at Connected Lakes State Park.

“Coach had me peak this week, and he knew it was a fast race,” he said. “I’d been doing a ton of hills, so it was nice to get a flat course and go hard.”

He also knew with the high level of competition he had to break away when he got the chance, which he did in the second mile.

“That was my main strategy. I like to go out hard,” he said. “I don’t have a ton of kick at the end, so I like to try and put them away early.”

The Anna Banana is a special race for the host Fruita Monument team. The race is named after Anna Janowitz, a Fruita Monument student-athlete who was killed in an automobile accident as she was driving to cross-country practice in 2002.

Bisbee is the Wildcats’ top runner, and he grabbed his side and doubled over after getting nipped at the line for third place. The senior said he’s struggled with abdominal cramps in several races this year.

“I felt great coming in. I thought I could perform well in this meet and run with Greg (Eccher) and Jake (Erickson), but it’s pretty disappointing,” Bisbee said. “This is my last Anna Banana, and this meet means a lot to everybody on the team. I’m disappointed in my finish, but our team had a great showing.”

The Wildcats did have a great showing, but they were just edged for the boys team title by Grand Junction, 83-84.

Grand Junction’s Allen Adair placed sixth, and Keaton Brown placed eighth for Fruita Monument.

Edwards wins girls race

Bayfield’s Eva Lou Edwards won the girls race with a time of 18:22.3, and Hotchkiss senior Natalie Anderson came in second at 19:07.2.

Anderson said she couldn’t hang with Edwards but was pushed by third-place finisher Katie Lyons of Greeley West. With a mile to go, Anderson knew she had to make a move.

“A little gap formed on the backstretch, and I was like, ‘I don’t have a kick, so I have to (go),’ ” she said with a laugh. “It was a good last Anna Banana.”

Running in her first Anna Banana, Grand Junction freshman Clarissa Berry turned in an impressive performance, finishing fourth with a 19:27.5, which was a personal best by nearly one minute.

“That’s really exciting,” the freshman said about her best time ever. “I was fourth almost the entire race until the end when this girl almost passed me, and I just booked it.”

Berry edged Jennifer Celis of Hotchkiss, who finished fifth in 19:28.

Berry, who said she is pretty new to running, said she has worked to get over her pre-race nerves and has gotten better.

“(Races) scare me, but I like running, and I like the way it feels when I finish, and I like doing well,” she said.

She was one of three freshmen in the top 20.

Senior Emily Stull was Central’s top finisher, placing 10th. Fruita Monument’s MacKennea Broyles finished 18th.

In the team race, Hotchkiss claimed the team title behind Anderson and Celis.

Grand Junction was second with senior Cassandra Grigware taking eighth place.

The race is one of the biggest on the Western Slope with nearly 200 varsity runners competing.


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