The Bulldogs are going back to state.
The Hotchkiss girls' cross country team placed three runners in the top 15 and finished second in the 2A Region 4 race last Friday at Confluence Park in Delta, qualifying for a return to this weekend's state championship race in Colorado Springs.
"I'm extremely proud of all of them, for all their effort and everything they put in this season," said Hotchkiss senior Mae Anderson, who ran the 5k lake course in a fourth-place time of 19 minutes, 54.08 seconds.
Anderson crossed the line after Telluride's Soleil Gaylord and Maya Ordonez and Soroco's Chloe Veilleux.
"Just about where I thought I'd finish. I was shooting for top five," Anderson said. "I really like this course. It's one of my favorites. I love how it's flat. It's a short and fast course."
Kaiya Firor continued her standout season and finished 10th for Hotchkiss with her time of 20:48.81. Sophia Schelle posted a strong 14th place run at 21:06.97 for the Bulldogs.
Mariah Griffith will run at state with the Bulldogs after her time of 23:15.78 rounded out the team times.
Hotchkiss finished fourth in the team standings at state last year, and the Bulldogs have a real chance at improving upon that finish this weekend.
"I love watching them work so hard in practice, and this is just a huge payoff for us," Anderson said. "I'm excited to see what we can go do over there on the other side of the mountains."
The top two regional teams qualified for state. Hotchkiss finished second to Telluride, and Paonia was just short of qualifying for state and finished third.
But the news was all good for the Eagles, who got two individual runners qualified to run at state and saw all of their team post personal records during the regional race.
"I think we finished really strong," Paonia senior Chelsea Meilner said. "I think all of our girls did awesome, and I couldn't be more proud of them for the work and effort they showed this season. All of them set PRs and some by like 30 seconds, so I just couldn't be more proud of them."
Meilner was right behind Anderson, crossing the line at 19:56.18 to finish fifth in the regional race.
"It was a good run, pretty soggy in some places," Meilner said. "The wet course kind of leveled the playing field. Telluride and Hotchkiss ran really good races, and they deserve to go to state."
This will be Meilner's fourth consecutive run at the state championship, where she posted her best personal finish and made the podium last year.
Brooke Hillman continued her marvelous season for Paonia and will join Meilner at the state championship after she crossed the line in 21:01.13, good for a 13th place finish in the regional race. The top 15 individuals qualified for state.
Nora Dransfield was the next Eagle to finish, crossing the line at 22:20.68. Macy O'Rourke (24:49.84) and Courtney Van Vleet (25:58.07) completed the Eagles' team times.