Paonia sophomore Chelsea Meilner is finding her place among Western Slope runners, and it's usually in the top 10. On Saturday, Meilner ran to a sixth-place finish at the Hotchkiss Invitational.
Less than 18 hours earlier, Paonia competed at the Ouray-Ridgway Ramble at the Reservoir. It was Paonia's first time to run the course, which begins with a long, steep uphill climb. "It was a really fun course, once you get past the hill," said Meilner, who finished ninth.
But then, Meilner is used to hills.
"It's been a really good, progressive season," said Meilner, who trains during off-season and whose entire family enjoys both competitive and recreational distance running. As a freshman she placed 16th at the state cross country meet and competed at state in the 1600- and 3200-meter runs in track. This summer she tied for first place in the women's division at the Cherry Days 5k.
This season, Meilner is consistently pushing the top 10. The exception is Battle Mountain, a first-run for Paonia, where she finished 28th. Both course and competition were steep, said Meilner.
Meilner said that running harder courses like Ridgway put the difficulty of the Hotchkiss course into perspective. "It was really funny because last year this was the hardest course that we did," said Meilner of the Hotchkiss course. "Last year it was the one everyone was dreading. But after (Saturday's run at Ridgway), it seemed like it would be easy."
Paonia's training grounds are also steep, and in some sections, very narrow. Training there helps the team to be more competitive, said Meilner. "It builds uphill endurance and ankle strength." Now the more moderate courses, including the Anna Banana course at Connected Lakes State Park, where Paonia will run this Saturday, seem tame.
Paonia will host its inaugural meet, the Paonia Jumbo Invitational, on Oct. 4.
"It's been a really good, progressive season," said Meilner, whose first high school race was exactly a year earlier at Hotchkiss, where she placed in the top 10.
Paonia runners had the choice this week of competing at Ridgway, Hotchkiss, or both. While a handful of seniors, including Taylor Polson and Braiden Clement, had prior commitments Saturday, several runners elected to compete at both.
"Those who ran again on Saturday had a real sense of accomplishment that would be hard for others to grasp," said Paonia head coach Richard Hypio. "They were into it and ran well on Saturday."
At Ridgway, Polson placed third with a time of 23:43.35.
Clement finished 31st and Alicia Wilmore and Noelle Helmer finished in the top 40. Greta Van Calcar of Palisade re-set the course record for the win in 21:25.74.
Jason Sturgis placed 22nd at Ridgway, and missed Saturday's race due to ACT testing.
Zach Milner had one of the best shows at Ridgway, placing fifth in the JV race behind runners from Palisade and Fruita Monument. Freshmen Tim Helmer and Eli Etter both ran at Ridgway and finished in the top 20 at Hotchkiss. Garrett Morgan finished in the top 30.blog comments powered by Disqus