After three years of placing in the top four, Montrose senior Evan Graff pulled off a convincing win Saturday at the Hotchkiss Cross Country Invitational. As part of his training, Graff delayed his start by 30 seconds and finished the course in 18 minutes, 11.35 seconds. Based on the top four placers, Montrose also won the team title with 26 points.
Paonia entered nine runners and placed four in the top 20: Caden Meilner placed third overall with a time of 19:02.57. Harley Ewart placed 11th with a time of 20:18.81, followed by Logan Green (16th, 20:35.74), and Ethan Bartlett (18th, 20:39.07.) Ben O'Rourke and Elijah Evans took 21st and 22nd place.
"It's a tough course," said Meilner. That they were able to compete with 4A Montrose is an indication of how well Paonia will do this season.
Led by Jonathan Munger's fifth-place time of 19:34.32, Olathe placed third with 57 points. Alex Hernandez placed
ninth, Layton McLaughlin was 19th, and Jesus Yee placed 26th.
Delta scored 63 points to place fourth, led by a convincing second-place time of 18:48.36 by junior John Ames. Ames wasn't feeling 100 percent, "But he still did really well," said Delta head coach JB Lopez.
Sophomore Shad Lewis bettered his freshman course time by a minute to place eighth with a time of 19:44.58. Thomas Neil and Isaac Vader finished in the top 30.
Ames also placed second at Battle Mountain on Sept. 2, and at the Aug. 26 Central Warrior Invitational. "John is running really well this year," said Lopez, and is on course to qualify for state.
Hotchkiss senior Sam Rodriguez placed fourth with a time of 19:12.53, boosting the Bulldogs to a fifth-place team finish. Tevin Keller, Will Ela and Kenny Drbohlav placed 28th, 31st and 33rd, respectively to round out the points.
This is the 17th year Hotchkiss has hosted the invitational. Caprock Academy (Grand Junction), Coal Ridge, Crested Butte Community School, DeBeque, Grand Valley and Meeker also competed in the race.