Moffat County junior Laura Zirkle, left, gets in on a group hug with teammates junior Alicia Nelson, foreground, and senior Caitlin Conci after the 2007 Class 4A State  meet in Colorado Springs. The girls finished ninth, led by Nelson's fourth-place finish.

Photo by David Pressgrove

Moffat County junior Laura Zirkle, left, gets in on a group hug with teammates junior Alicia Nelson, foreground, and senior Caitlin Conci after the 2007 Class 4A State meet in Colorado Springs. The girls finished ninth, led by Nelson's fourth-place finish.

Girl runners continue tradition of excellence

Nelson fourth, Jourgensen 15th at state meet

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Moffat County senior Mike McNicol gives it his all as he tries to stay in front of a Greeley West runner at the finish of Saturday's 2007 Class 4A State meet. McNicol led the Bulldogs boys to a 22nd-place finish with his own 28th-place finish.

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Moffat County freshman Nike Cleverly races in front of two Niwot runners with less than a mile to go at the Class 4A State Cross Country Championships Saturday in Colorado Springs. Cleverly was the team's third runner and finished in 85th place.

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Moffat County junior Laura Zirkle, left, gets in on a group hug with teammates junior Alicia Nelson, foreground, and senior Caitlin Conci after the 2007 Class 4A State meet in Colorado Springs. The girls finished ninth, led by Nelson's fourth-place finish.

— The Moffat County Football Team put up a "Tradition of Excellence" board this year to show the history of the football team's postseason appearances. The girls cross-country team could use a display of their own.

The Bulldog girls added to their rich tradition with a ninth-place finish at the 2007 Class 4A State meet. For the 11th time in 10 years, Moffat County had a girl finish in the top 10 as an individual and for the seventh time in 10 years a top-10 team finish.

This year, for the second year in a row, the all-state runner was junior Alicia Nelson, who bettered last year's finish of seventh place with a fourth-place finish.

Coach Todd Trapp had nothing but good things to say about Nelson's performance.

"She did everything we talked about going into the race," he said. "We told her not to go out with the leader, but to make sure she was in the first pack. She had some left and almost caught third place down the stretch."

Nelson was in fifth place after the first mile of the 3.1-mile race, and she stayed right in that spot until the final 400 yards. Down the homestretch Nelson passed Sierra's Samantha Thompson, who finished sixth last year, and nearly caught Thompson Valley's Becky Schmitt.

Nelson's time of 19 minutes, 36 seconds was 19 seconds better than last year.

"Alicia had a lot of high expectations after last year's finish," Trapp said. "We knew going in she was capable of a top-five finish because she had be running faster times this year."

Nelson wasn't the only star for the Bulldogs. Freshman Maddy Jourgensen continued to add to her "future star" potential with a 15th-place finish. Jourgensen, who finished fourth at last week's regional meet, was the top freshman from the region and third freshman overall at the meet.

"Mady beat some elite runners today," Trapp said. "We knew she could race to the top 20, but to finish 15th is off the charts for a freshman."

Freshman Nike Cleverly was the third runner with an 85th-place finish. She finished the race more than two minutes faster than when she ran the same course at the end of August.

"Our girls came a long way this year," Trapp said. "Almost everybody ran more than two minutes faster than where they started."

Senior Caitlin Conci was the fourth finisher for the Bulldogs in 116th. She also ran more than two minutes faster than before.

"Caitlin didn't run for us her junior year but came back this year and was a huge addition to our team," Trapp said.

Finishing out the top seven for the Bulldogs were freshman Callie Papoulas at 135th, junior Laura Zirkle at 143rd and Elaine DuBois at 163rd.

The Bulldogs, who finished fourth at the regional meet, were the second-place team from the region at state. Summit finished fourth overall to lead the Western Slope Region. Battle Mountain was right behind the Bulldogs in 10th and Glenwood Springs was 14th.

"We reached both of our goals for the girls and those were to be in the top 10 and to be the second-best team from the region," Trapp said.

The Bulldogs lose two important seniors but return a good core for next year's team. But first the focus is to track.

"Alicia should have some added confidence for the track season now," Trapp said. "We could have some strong relay opportunities in track with our depth."

Boys finish with mixed results

All season the boys cross-country team was consistently inconsistent.

If two of their top-five runners had a strong race, it seemed like another two struggled.

It was much of the same at the state meet.

The strong performers were senior Mike McNicol and junior Colt Criswell.

McNicol finished his cross-country career with a 28th-place finish.

McNicol finished with a time of 17:26.56.

"Mike went out and put himself in good position," Trapp said. "He beat some guys who beat him last week, and I think he should be happy with how it all worked out."

As McNicol was finishing up his career, Criswell may have been working his way into a promising senior season. The junior finished 102nd with a time of 18:28, which was 1:15 faster than his first race of the season on the same course.

"I didn't think and that's usually good for me during a race," he said. "This year was much better for me than my sophomore year. I think I just got stronger and more confident."

Senior Josh Classen finished shortly behind Criswell in 114th with a time of 18:38.

Sophomore Corey Wojtkiewicz fought through a hip injury to finish 167th with a time of 19:31.16.

Freshman Charlie Griffiths had a strong finish and one of his best races of the year with a time of 19:51.26 and a 171st-place finish.

Freshman Kevin Murray (20:01:01) was 176th, and junior Jesse Breslin (20:30.66) was 180th for the Bulldogs.

Battle Mountain, the Western Slope region champion, easily won the state title with 55 points. The second-place finisher was Liberty with 111 points.

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