After qualifying the girls' team and one male runner in its inaugural season, the Paonia cross country program qualified both teams for this Saturday's Class 2A championship meet at Colorado Springs. The boys' team placed fourth, and the girls' team qualified for the second consecutive year after finishing second.
"It's pretty exciting," said head coach Richard Hypio. "Everybody did what they had to do."
While the girls were ranked second heading into last Friday's regional race, the boys' team's fate wasn't so certain. They narrowly qualified, finishing with 45 points to place fourth, and just two points ahead of sixth-place Mancos. Ouray High School placed fifth with 46 points. Only the top four teams and top 15 placers qualify for state.
"I've thought they could do it all along," said Hypio.
"I'm proud of all my guys and I think we got it," said Sturgis while waiting to hear the final scores. Sturgis, a senior, led the Eagles with a sixth-place time of 17 minutes, 8.68 seconds. Sturgis is a three-time state qualifier and finished ninth in 2012.
Sturgis started out with the lead pack, "Then I kind of went my own pace." Sturgis's time was the best in his four-year career, "by a couple of seconds, and I'm really happy about that."
About a minute and a half back, teammates Tim Helmer, Jesse Reed and Zach Milner were clustered together and keeping just ahead of runners from Ouray and Mancos. Helmer, a freshman, said they hadn't planned to run as a group. "I just stayed with Jesse, that was the main thing," said Helmer, who edged past Reed in the second half of the course. Helmer didn't know how far back Reed was until he saw his shadow well into the third mile. Milner was just behind Reed. Helmer said that with about 800 meters to go in the 5000-meter race, he glanced back and saw a Mancos runner gaining and urged his teammates to hurry.
Helmer, Reed and Milner finished 19th, 20th and 21st, with Joey Fedel of Ouray, who passed Mancos in the final quarter mile, coming in four seconds back.
The three have had close finishes all season long, said Hypio. "That's been great to have." On Friday, "things just kind of came together."
Senior Garrett Morgan will round out the five-member team after finishing the course in 19:45.17.
The girls' team placed three in the top 15 to finish second with 21 points. Senior Taylor Polson ran one of the best times of her four-year career, finishing third behind her former Hotchkiss teammates with a time of 19:48.3. Chelsea Meilner finished in 20:33.6 to place sixth, and senior Braiden Clement finished 13th with a time of 21.22.5. The three returning state qualifiers will be joined at state by Alicia Wilmore and Noelle Helmer.blog comments powered by Disqus