Paonia freshman Chelsea Meliner leads Hotchkiss runners Tiffany Clock and Sophia Schelle at the Hotchkiss Invitational cross country meet earlier in the season. All three runners had strong finishes Saturday at the 10th annual Anna Banana meet in Fruita.
For Paonia, the Anna Banana Memorial Wildcat Invitational was a day of season and personal bests. Almost every runner posted personal records, with some of the younger runners finishing minutes ahead of their best times.
"It was a really good day for us," said coach Richard Hypio.
The Anna Banana course is largely flat and fast and is where many personal records fall. This year's field of male runners was more than 140 strong.
First-year runner Clay Carney, who is one of several runners using cross country to stay in shape for winter sports, took more than a minute and a half off of his personal best time. Second-year runner Garrett Morgan shaved a minute off of his best time to finish the 5,000-meter course in just over 20 minutes.
Ethan Ferguson finished in 19 minutes, 40 seconds — a minute and 10 seconds faster than his best time this season. Austin Katzer also set a PR of 21:10.6
Jason Sturgis led the Eagles to place 37th with a personal best time of 17:44.7. Jacob Helleckson cut almost 10 seconds off his personal best time to finish in 18:31.4.
With 486 points, the boys' team tied for 18th place with Meeker.
This year's field of 129 female racers was the fastest in the meet's history. Eva Lou Edwards of Bayfield broke the course record of 18:57, set in 2009 by Johanna Reed. Reed, a Paonia High School student and four-time winner at Anna Banana, ran for 3A Hotchkiss. Paonia split from Hotchkiss and formed its own team this fall. Both teams now compete in Class 2A.
Junior Taylor Polson set a new personal record of 20:09.9 to place 16th.
Chelsy Reed ran her best time of the season, placing 32nd in 20:54.8. Chelsea Mielner set a new personal record of 21:29.2 to place 56th.
Mandy Bushta and Braiden Clement raced to the finish line, said Hypio. Clement crossed the finish line in a season-best 22:06.8, and Bushta set a new personal best time, finishing in 22:07.1.
Sophomore Joanna Briese, who ran her first varsity race last week at Hotchkiss, shaved more than three minutes off of her time to finish in 25:42.6.
The girls' team placed ninth with 237 points.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Anna Banana meet, which is held in memory of Anna Lee Janowitz, a Fruita Monument High School star cross country runner who was killed in a car accident on her way to practice at the age of 17. In all, 23 schools from as far away as Bayfield, Greeley and Denver competed at the meet.
Next Saturday, Paonia will be tested by the altitude when it competes in the Chris Severy Invitational at Aspen High School. The school is situated at 8,043 feet in elevation and consists of moderate ascents and descents.