Hard work is paying off for Shad Lewis. The Delta junior ran the best cross country race of his career Saturday, on one of the toughest courses on the Western Slope, placing third at the Hotchkiss Invitational.
His time of 19 minutes, 17.35 seconds bested last year's eighth-place time by a full 27 seconds.
"I'm excited about that," said Lewis. He credits the improvement on putting more miles behind him in this year, and to a change in practices. "We started working on hills a little more," he said. In tackling the Hotchkiss course's "really steep hills... I think that helped me a lot."
Lewis and Paonia senior Ethan Bartlett led the pack for about a mile. "Everything felt really good and smooth," said Lewis. At that point, he said, Montrose lead runner Sean Graff caught up with them. Bartlett kept pace with Graff for about a mile, before Graff broke away to win the race. Lewis said he got close to Bartlett around mile two, with both runners finishing the race at their own pace.
Lewis said he was happy with third place and his course-best time of 19:44. Delta scored 48 points to place fourth overall. Panther Garrison Paniagua finished in the top 30 with a time of 22:17.25, and Doyle Young finished 32nd in 22:57.94.
Panthers lead runner John Ames missed the race to attend a family event, said coach JB Lopez. Ames placed second at Hotchkiss last season and likely would have been a top-two finisher.
Lewis said Ames' absence was noticed. "It's really different without him here," said Lewis, who paces himself off of Ames in practices and races. "Usually I like to stay with him the first mile-ish and then we just kind of split up."