Two seniors will represent Hotchkiss this Saturday at the Class 2A state cross country meet in Colorado Springs. Sam Rodriguez will make his second state cross country appearance after placing fifth at the 2A Region 4 meet. Rodriguez crossed the finish line in 17 minutes, 14.1 seconds.
Senior Hannah Hatheway will make her first state cross country appearance after placing 14th overall with a time of 22:36.66.
After starting out a bit slow two weeks earlier at the Pantherfest meet, Rodriguez came out of the start at a faster pace and kept the lead runners in sight throughout the race. He knew that if he could run a strong first mile, rather than play catch-up later, he'd be okay. That paid off, and allowed him to have a strong finish.
Rodriguez is a three-year cross country runner for Hotchkiss and ran his freshman year at Delta High School. He set several goals early on, including a sub-17-minute time, which he achieved at the Pantherfest on Oct. 6 with a time of 16:47.73.
His goal for state: "Top 10," said Rodriguez, a reachable goal since he's ranked 10th in the state.
Head coach Kelly Cowan credited Hatheway for competing well against "...one of, if not the toughest groups" in the state, marked by Telluride's Soleil Gaylord's winning time of 19:09.97.
A fourth-year runner, Hatheway came just two seconds shy of breaking the 22-minute mark this season, one of the goals she set for herself. Also among her goals: qualifying for state. After placing 19th in the region last season, Hatheway traveled to Colorado Springs with the team to provide support and check out the course.
With the top 15 finishers automatically qualifying for state, Hatheway kept track of where she was, and where she needed to be. Despite a fast start, "I didn't get out as quick as I wanted to," said Hatheway. Keeping pace with a small pack she was able to make up time. After two runners passed her she knew she was in 15th place. To ensure a trip to state, she passed one of the two runners, "just in case," and held her place for the remainder of the race.
The boys team finished sixth overall with 61 points, and the girls placed eighth with 61 points.
Nick Jung placed 25th with a personal best time of 18:59.28. Will Ela and Kenny Drbohlav raced down the stretch to finish in 19:30.43 and 19:30.50, respectively, followed closely by Tevin Keller with a time of 19:33.53.
On the girls side, Mariah Griffith finished in 24:19.15, Isabella Spano posted a time of 24:34.71, and Grace Hatheway finished in 25:04.67.
In looking at the season, "Top to bottom, they've improved more than any group I've ever had," said Cowan. "Can't ask for more. They've worked hard. Good attitudes."
And all but the two state-qualifying seniors are underclassmen.