Strong 'til the end

State cross-country highlight of season


Three top ten finishes were on the list of accomplishments the Moffat County Bulldog cross-country teams achieved Saturday at the state meet, which took place at the Vineyard Golf Club in Colorado Springs.

"To have two guys in the top ten, it just shows what they've done the last four years," coach Todd Trapp said.

In the Class 4A race, the Bulldogs went out hard, and remained strong through the finish. Seniors Jake Miller and Jeremy Bird paced the Bulldogs with 8th and 9th place finishes.

"Kelly Christainsen was the last time any guy from Moffat County has been in the top 10," Trapp said. "Since I've been here the last five years, we've just tried to attain that."

For Miller, the final race of his career was an emotional one. Coming off an individual regional crown, Miller said he wanted to end his career on a high note.

"I felt good coming in," Miller said. "But I didn't know what to expect. I choked the last three years."

During the race, Miller stationed himself with a strong group of runners and said he held on to finish in the top 10.

"The whole back stretch I was trying to keep up with everybody," Miller said. " I gave everything I had, but I died at the end."

Miller crossed the finish line in 16:48.50, and walked away with a smile on his face.

Bird also had an emotional end to his career. After having an up and down season, Bird went out at the state meet in good form.

Aggressively attacking the course, Bird found himself in third place after the first mile. Feeling strong and confident, he continued the pace, but coming down the backstretch, Bird said he felt himself tire.

"After the fourth person passed me, my mind set changed," Bird said. "I'm satisfied with my race, but I had more left at the end."

Bird finished just seconds behind Miller in 16:51.75. The ninth place finish was the strongest finish Bird had ever had at the state meet.

Junior Mike McNicol, who has been the Bulldogs third runner all season, finished his year by placing 48th overall with a time of 17:43.20. Jake Breslin, Colt Criswell, Corey Wojtkiewicz and Josh Classen rounded out the Moffat County team, with each of the runners improving their times from the beginning of the season.

Wojtkiewicz was the fourth runner to finish for the Bulldogs. A time of 19:18.20 put him in 145th place of 190 runners. Next in line was Classen, who crossed at 19:30.95. Criswell and Breslin finished four seconds apart from each other with times of 19:54.10 and 19:58.15, respectively.

"I think the team as a whole had a good season," Bird said after the race.

Trapp was pleased with the way the season went, although his team missed its goal of finishing in the top 10. The team finished 13 points out of the top 10 with 364 points.

Montrose was just ahead of Moffat County with 351 points.

"I think everyone went out hard and aggressive," Trapp said. "And at state we haven't done that in the past. The guys followed the race strategy and put themselves in a good position right away."

Battle Mountain took the team title in Class 4A, and Joseph Manilafasha of Denver North won the individual title by finishing the course in 16:10.25.

Sophomore sensation

Despite wet and messy course conditions, Bulldog sophomore Alicia Nelson not only finished in 7th place at the Class 4A state cross-country championships, she improved her time by almost 40 seconds, crossing the finish at 19:55.35.

"I just used people to draft off of," Nelson said after the race. "And then I tried to kick it at the end."

Nelson has had a banner year, coming off a great summer of training and an individual regional championship. So it was no surprise to her teammates that she went into the state meet with confidence and a race strategy that would push her limits.

"My plan was to stick with the Glenwood girl (Katrina Selsor)," Nelson said.

After using Selsor at the regional meet to push herself, Nelson had no trouble at state using her to follow. At the two-mile mark, she began her move to the front pack.

"The last two weeks, she's had a hill at the two-mile mark," Trapp said. "You could see where she just started picking people off."

Nelson sat comfortably in the middle pack for much of the race before making the surge.

"I had a lot more confidence this year," Nelson said.

Trapp thought Nelson ran a smart race and said he's looking forward to next season.

Junior Jeacey Robinson and freshman Katy Nottingham were the other two Bulldog runners that qualified for the state meet.

After a slip at the starting line, Robinson was off and running hard.

"It was really wet," Robinson said.

Spectators and runners could see how bad course conditions were as individuals crossed the finish caked in mud and grass.

"That was the hardest race of my life," Robinson said.

Her time of 21:42.40 put her in 70th place overall. Teammate Nottingham was two spots ahead of her in 68th place, with a time of 21:39.70.

"It was hard running with so many fast girls," Nottingham said.

Nottingham said it was a little intimidating coming into the state meet as a freshman, but once they got to the start, she realized it wasn't anything that they hadn't seen before.

Although the girls did not qualify as a team, the individual success of Nelson, Robinson and Nottingham at the state meet was a testament to the strength of the Bulldog team and what's to come in the future.

The Class 4A individual title went to sophomore Kaitie Vanatta of Ralston Valley. Her time of 18:14.95 was 1:13 faster than the second place finisher. It also was Vanatta's second state crown, winning last year's competition as a freshman.

The 4A top 10 was dominated this year by youth, with sophomores taking the top three spots and five of the top 10.

The Class 4A team title went to Thompson Valley who finished with 175 points. Two Western Slope teams finished in the top 10 -- Glenwood Springs was sixth, and Battle Mountain seventh.

Summit, the third team to qualify out of region 5, finished the team standings in 11th place.

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