PALISADE -- They didn't get to hold hands at the finish, but everything else went as planned for Moffat County's Jeremy Bird and Jake Miller.
The juniors finished first and second at the Class 4A Western Slope regional Saturday. They led their team to a third-place finish. The top-four teams qualified for the state meet in Colorado Springs next Saturday.
Bird beat Miller for the first time this season to take the individual title.
"I knew where I slowed down last week, and I made sure I picked it up there," Bird said. "I thought I heard Miller behind me the whole way."
Bird finished 13 seconds faster than he had on the same course the week before.
"(Bird's performance) doesn't surprise me," coach Todd Trapp said. "He's been leading us in practice, it was just a matter of him putting together a full race."
The boys went into the meet hoping for a team championship, but Battle Mountain and Montrose ruined the plan.
The Huskies won the meet with 51 points, and Montrose was second with 52. The Bulldogs had 62 points.
"I was surprised by Montrose," Trapp said. "I hadn't seen any results for them this year."
Bulldogs senior Ricardo Pinedo had his top performance of the season with a 10th-place finish. After Pinedo was a 43-second gap that cost them the regional title.
Sophomore Mike McNicol was the Bulldogs' fourth runner in 21st place. He improved his time from the previous week by more than a minute.
"I thought, for us to win it, we needed Mike with Ricardo," Trapp said. "We just don't have a lot of depth, and it cost us."
Junior Shane Braselton completed the scoring with a 28th-place finish. Junior Jake Breslin finished in 36th.
"We were focused on Steamboat, so Montrose really surprised me," Pinedo said. "I was right with a pack of Battle Mountain runners, I just needed some help from my teammates."
Every girl improves
The Moffat County girls knew they would have to run well because of the absence of junior Amber Suits. They ran just well enough to make it to state.
"The teams that beat us had two girls up front, and we needed that," Trapp said. "We're a young team, and I thought, for the most part, the girls ran just about as good as they could."
Freshman Alicia Nelson has led the Bulldogs in every race this year. Nelson followed a pack of four girls throughout the race to finish in fifth place.
"My goal was top three," she said. "That group of four never came back to me."
Nelson finished 21 seconds better than last week.
"Alicia ran well," Trapp said. "She got caught in no-man's land, but that won't happen next week, and she'll have runners to compete with."
All of the girls improved their times from the previous week. Senior Alyssa Macomber finished her final regional meet with a personal-best time of 21:51. That was good enough for 18th place.
Freshman Laura Zirkle finished her first regional meet in 23rd place.
"I was more nervous for my first race," she said. "I could see Alyssa the whole race, and I just wanted to keep as close as I could."
She improved by 22 seconds.
Junior Katie Morris improved by 16 seconds to finish 26th. Sophomore Jeacey Robinson was 21 seconds better in 28th.
Elaine DuBois had the team's biggest improvement with a run that was 36-second faster and a 31st-place finish.
Freshman Erin Urbanoski improved by 16 seconds to finish 43rd.
The girls finished with 100 points, which was 16 points better than Montezuma Cortez. Battle Mountain ran away with the title. The Huskies finished with 38 points. Summit finished second with 79 points, and Glenwood Springs was third with 87 points.
Suits, who missed the meet to attend her brother's graduation, had been running close to Nelson, but that's only a "what if."
"She would have helped," Trapp said. "But the rest of the girls got us to state."