A new chapter was written in an old rivalry at the Hotchkiss Cross Country Invitational girls' race last Saturday at Hotchkiss High School.
Hotchkiss senior Mae Anderson cruised to a first-place finish, completing the hilly course in the adobes behind the high school less than 25 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Chelsea Meilner of Paonia.
"I was really motivated today," Anderson said after completing the challenging, up-and-down 5k course in 22 minutes, 9.36 seconds. "This was my last chance to win on my home course so I decided to go for it."
Anderson and Meilner have competed in a friendly rivalry since the seventh grade.
Meilner charged off the start line and led the field for most of the mainly uphill first mile of the race.
"I love the hills, but as soon as I got on that back stretch that's where Mae definitely excels," Meilner said. "She excels all the way around. It's always been my goal to catch her. Maybe someday, but it wasn't today. I was happy with my race."
Anderson was able to overtake Meilner during the second mile of the course during the flatter section of the run.
"She kept the lead for the first mile, then down in the valley I got ahead of her," Anderson said. "Then I decided to keep the lead. I had to push the pace and opened it up a little. That was my strategy."
Meilner's second-place time of 22:34.54 was well ahead of the third- and fourth-place finishers, two runners from Eagle Valley. It was also the best finish Meilner has posted in her cross country career.
"Mae has just been faster than me the past few years," Meilner said. "She's been the person to beat, the person to pace with. On the course we're super competitive, but off the course we're super good friends too. It works out nicely."
Delta senior Mykayla Music continued her strong start to the season by finishing fifth overall with her time of 23:19.68.
"The girls looked good today. Our girls' team is small, and they're pretty young," Delta coach JB Lopez said. "Mykayla last year won this race, so I think if she was feeling as good as she can feel she might have done better. But I'm so proud of her. She did a great job."
In the team standings, Eagle Valley won the race. Hotchkiss was third, Paonia finished fourth and Delta was seventh.
Hotchkiss runners Kaiya Firor (23:33.55) and Sophia Schelle (23:43.77) finished seventh and eighth overall, respectively, on their home course.
Mariah Griffith (27:03.01) and Ashley Ziemer (32:40.81) completed the Bulldogs' team score at the race.
"With the girls, we were hoping we could get three runners in the top 10 and we did that so I was real pleased there," said Hotchkiss coach Kelly Cowan. "I was hoping for a top-five team finish and we did that. So they did well today and I was real proud of them."
Paonia sophomore Brooke Hillman was strong for the second consecutive week, posting a 14th place time of 24:16.70.
"I'm really impressed with Brooke today," Eagles coach Brandy Sparks said. "This is a tough course and she gave it all she had, and that's all I ask. Placing, that's great, but I want to know that they've done their best and I'm confident that today she did. I was really impressed."
Nora Dransfield (26:40.16), Macy O'Rourke (27:13.45) and Megan Limone (31:58.41) rounded out the Eagles' team effort.
Delta senior Abbi Beckwith missed the race so she could take the ACT. After Music finished fifth, Delta was well-represented in the standings.
Beki Atchley was the second Panther across the finish line at 25:24.53. Anha Richards (26:20.52), Summer Hood (33:13.49) and Amanda Fuller (34:16.16) completed the team totals for Delta.