Paonia's boys' cross country team continues to make strides and is starting to set higher goals for itself as more and more talented Eagles join the squad.
In the second meet of the year at Confluence Park in Delta last Friday morning, nearly all of the Eagles posted times that improved upon their first meet marks.
"I'm very pleased with the boys' race," first year Paonia head coach Brandy Sparks said. "My expectations for them were just blown out of the water."
After Montrose junior Ian Meek blistered the 5k course in 15 minutes, 54.82 seconds to win the individual race, the runners came in to the finish line in bunches, and the Eagles were well-represented.
Sophomore Caden Meilner posted the best time for the Eagles with his mark of 18:17.96.
Junior Tim Helmer, who was a little under the weather and is still getting into mid-season shape, was the next Paonia runner across the finish line at 19:42.75.
"I felt my first mile was really good, but I think I could have done better on my second mile," Helmer said. "I'm getting in the swing of this. I'm definitely going to try and push myself as hard as I ever have."
Paonia sophomore Ben O'Rourke was not far behind, finishing the race at 20:17.52. Senior Bo Pipher runs cross country so he can add depth to the team and stay in shape for wrestling. He was the fourth Eagles finisher at 20:32.76.
"Our guys are a lot of freshmen, and they don't know how to pace," Helmer said. "But in terms of this week compared to last week, all of them dropped time so I feel like we have a very competitive team. I just want the team to go to state."
Freshman Ethan Bartlett (22:32.97) and junior Allen Harper (22:53.33) completed the results for the Paonia boys.
Grand Junction won the team title at the Delta Invitational, which was open to all classes. Paonia finished 13th in the team standings.
The Eagles are showing great enthusiasm and positivity to their new coach.
"It's been better than I anticipated," Sparks said. "It's been a lot of fun getting to know the kids and watch them run and challenge themselves."