Moffat County High School
Did you know?
The MCHS cross country team has won a combined 17 state titles in the school's history - second only to wrestling (23 combined titles). Here's the breakdown:
Team titles (no girls raced until 1978):
1963 Orlie Duran
1964 Orlie Duran
1970 Charlie Vigil
1992 Jinny Mortensen
1992 Clint Wells
1995 Christina Moyer
1996 Christina Moyer
2008 Alicia Nelson
Her legs wobbled as she came to a halt.
Hands clutched at her sides, Alicia Nelson fell to her knees.
She gasped for a breath of air and immediately was swarmed by television cameras, microphones and prying eyes everywhere.
And for good reason - Nelson had just won a state championship.
The MCHS senior broke away from the lead pack with 800 meters to go Saturday in the girls 4A high school cross country state finals, claiming the top prize in convincing fashion and adding another title to the school's growing list of champions
Nelson's time of 18 minutes, 13.70 seconds was more than 14 seconds faster than this year's runner-up, and she bumped the number of Bulldogs state championship titles to 17.
Winning state "was my ultimate goal through all of my four years," Nelson said, trying to catch her breath. "The hard work finally paid off. I'm really excited."
Nelson, Thompson Valley's Laura Trembley and defending champion Erica Hinchcliffe, of Greeley West, broke away from the main group about a mile into the race, setting a pace that was too quick for the remaining 170 competitors.
"I just went with the pack and was kind of seeing where I was supposed to be," Nelson said. "Then the three of us pulled away, and it started getting fast."
The trio ran together through the two-mile mark, when Hinchcliffe fell back.
With less than 1,000 meters remaining, Nelson made her move.
"It was right before the 800 mark," Nelson said. "She (Trembley) actually dropped back, and I thought she was going to try to come back and out-kick me, but she dropped back way too much and wasn't able to catch up."
Nelson's time was 49.1 seconds faster than the time she recorded Aug. 28 on the same course at Fossil Ridge High School in the pre-state invite, and it was nearly two seconds faster than the time she recorded last week while winning her third consecutive regional championship.
With Saturday's victory, Nelson became Moffat County High School's sixth individual state champion, joining Orlie Duran (1963, 1964), Charlie Vigil (1970), Jinny Mortensen (1992), Clint Wells (1992) and Christina (Moyer) Johnson (1995, 1996).
The Bulldogs also have nine team titles, putting MCHS' gold medal haul now at an impressive 17 total state championships.
Looking around the spectators Saturday, it's easy to see why: Bulldogs pride. Mortensen was there, cheering on the Bulldogs.
So was Johnson.
And roaming around indiscreetly was Wells - MCHS' last boys champion.
"Of course I'm going to come out here and cheer on my alma matter," Johnson said. "There aren't many Bulldogs out there. We have to stick together."
Johnson, Mortensen and Nelson account for the Bulldogs' last four individual girls titles, and although they had never met before, they hugged, chatted and posed for a picture like they had been lifelong friends.
And why not?
They share a common bond that no one can ever take from them: Bulldogs state champions.
"It's really cool to see Alicia come out and win another title for us," Mortensen said. "Cross country is a very difficult sport. To see a Moffat County girl be honored as the best brings back a lot of memories."
Being the 17th state champion in school history still hadn't registered to Nelson.
"It's still kind of sinking in," she said. "I'm just proud, with all the hard work I put in, that I'm one of them."
MCHS cross country fans might not have to wait long to see title number 18.
Sophomore Maddy Jourgensen - who finished second six times to Nelson this year - placed sixth in the season ending event.
"Maddy definitely has developed what she needs to win," Nelson said. "She has the ability and the talent. Now, it's just a matter of pushing herself and pushing past everyone else."
Kind of like Nelson did.