Three Delta County high schools saw vastly improved performances from their boys' cross country teams at the Hotchkiss Invitational last Saturday at Hotchkiss High School.
The hilly 5k course got hotter as the day went on, and the boys ran the final test of the event. Montrose standout Ian Meek was the overall winner for the second week in a row, and he did it in impressive fashion.
Following a personal challenge, Meek stayed on the start line an extra 30 seconds and let the entire field get ahead of him. He then promptly passed every single runner to win the race in 17 minutes, 47.93 seconds.
Paonia sophomore Caden Meilner was the first Delta County boy across the finish line, posting a 16th place time of 19:34.33.
"I felt like I was going at a really comfortable pace, but I still had more inside of me," Meilner said. "I was working on keeping a constant pace and not killing myself on the first couple of miles. I had a really good finish, so yeah, I felt pretty good out there."
Delta freshman John Ames posted the best finish for the Panthers at 20:10.61 and 29th overall.
"I ran this course in middle school. It's a tough course, with a lot of turns and more hills," Ames said. "We have a young team, but I think we're getting better each week. It feels like a second family."
Hotchkiss saw its best finish from Gabe Rodriguez, who was right behind Ames in 30th place overall with his time of 20:12.24.
"It was really tough competition. I saw several of our boys finished stronger today than they have in the past couple weeks," Hotchkiss coach Kelly Cowan said. "So I was really pleased with them doing it that way."
Hotchkiss just missed its goal in the team standings, finishing sixth. Gunnison won the race, Delta finished in seventh place and Paonia was ninth.
Sam Rodriguez was right behind his brother at the finish line for Hotchkiss, posting a time of 20:13.36.
Zack Allen (20:32.62), Owen Mattison (22:33.88), Parker Katzdorn (23:03.99), Trenton Carr (24:21.30), Nick Jung (25:23.05) and Myles Zoutte (27:36.72) rounded out the team effort for the Bulldogs.
"Our boys just missed our goal of the top five, but that's okay," said Cowan. "It's a tough, tough course here so I was real pleased with how the kids did."
Paonia got a second consecutive strong race from junior Tim Helmer, who was the second Eagle across the finish line at 20:39.24.
"Tim has really stepped it up this year," Eagles coach Brandy Sparks said. "He looked very strong today and I think all the boys did really well."
Bo Pipher was the third Paonia runner across the line with his time of 22:30.98.
Ben O'Rourke was next at 23:35.98 for the Eagles and Ethan Bartlett (25:19.90), Dominic Limone (26:53.63) and John Deck (42.18.48) completed the team results for the Eagles.
"All these meets that we're going to are workouts for the big meets at regionals and state," Sparks said. "We had a hard week of practice and I know they came in this morning sore, but it's all about getting in shape and getting ready for that regional meet."
Delta's large, young squad, with five freshmen and six sophomores, was paced by Ames, Elias Carlson (20:35.34) and Logan Freed, who was the third team runner across the finish line at 21:41.65. David Husmann (22:23.28) and Paul Connett (23:03.58) were fourth and fifth, respectively, for the Panthers.
"We've got a fairly good-sized boys' team, and of course they are fairly young, which is a good thing," Delta coach JB Lopez said. "They're showing a lot of promise. I think we're moving in the right direction."
Aaron Lohrberg (23:21.71), Thomas Neil (23:32.42), Rodolfo Contreras (23:45.40), Charlie Reid (24:18.38) and Ryan Cooper (25:46.30) were the next Panthers to finish the run.
Delta's Lane Mayberry completed the course in 25:47.66. Ronald Jackson (26:34.65), Joshua Dillon (26:57.08) and Micah Kathrein (28:54.85) rounded out the team runners for the Panthers.
"This is a tough course," Lopez said. "I can tell they're getting into great shape. They were able to maintain their conditioning throughout the race, so that's a good sign."