Eight-time national cross country skiing champion and Winter Olympian, Rebecca Dussault, of Gunnison, spoke last Friday to the Paonia High School cross country team. Dussault, who is beginning a national motivational speaking tour, said she wants to share her many stories, including why she retired from competition at age 19, in hopes of “motivating kids positively for an athletic lifestyle for their entire life,” and to help them set priorities and understand the roll of sports in their lives. Dussault qualified for the Junior Olympics at age 15, and led the Gunnison High School cross country team to a second-place finish at state her senior year. Among her many athletic successes, Dussault represented the U.S. at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, and in 2010 became the first non-European woman in Winter Triathlon history to take an elite world championship title. “We really need sports and fitness for the health of our mind, body and spirit,” she told the team. “You are athletes for life, not just in sports, but mentally, musically.”Paonia senior Jason Sturgis finished 11th with a time of 18 minutes, 12.23 seconds at Saturday's Eagle Valley Cross Country Invitational in Gypsum. In his second cross country race, first-year junior Jesse Reed finished second for Paonia, running the slick, mostly grass 5,000-meter course in 20 minutes, 3.98 seconds to place 37th.
Tim Helmer (20:11.99), Zach Milner (20:24.7) , Eli Etter (20:34.47) and Garrett Morgan (21:01.58) rounded out scoring to give Paonia 144 points and a seventh-place finish.
In the girls' division, Paonia senior Taylor Polson ran to a seventh-place finish Saturday at Eagle Valley, with a time of 21 minutes, 8.78 seconds, with Chelsea Meilner coming in 10th in 21:36.63. Senior Braiden Clement finished in the top 25 with a time of 22:57.42. Freshmen Noelle Helmer (24:38.73) and Courtney Van Vleet (25:21.92) rounded out scoring for Paonia. The girls had 110 points to place sixth.
Paonia will compete at the Hotchkiss Invitational this Saturday morning following the annual Dobie Desert Classic citizens' race, which begins at 9 a.m.