The Moffat County girls team, from left, Maddy Jourgensen, Nike Cleverly, Laura Zirkle, Megan Knez and Alicia Nelson, take off at the beginning of the Class 4A Colorado State Cross Championships on Saturday in Fort Collins. The girls team finished 16th, and the Moffat County boys finished 17th in their races.

Photo by David Pressgrove

The Moffat County girls team, from left, Maddy Jourgensen, Nike Cleverly, Laura Zirkle, Megan Knez and Alicia Nelson, take off at the beginning of the Class 4A Colorado State Cross Championships on Saturday in Fort Collins. The girls team finished 16th, and the Moffat County boys finished 17th in their races.

MCHS runs rampant at state

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Moffat County senior Colt Criswell races toward the finish line at the Class 4A Colorado State Cross Country Championships on Saturday in Fort Collins. Criswell finished his high school career with a 63rd place finish among 196 competitors.

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Moffat County senior Laura Zirkle tells sophomore Maddy Jourgensen, "I'm so proud of you," after the two raced in the Class 4A Colorado State Cross Championships on Saturday in Fort Collins. Jourgensen finished sixth for the Bulldogs.

MCHS cross country at state championships

Fossil Ridge High School, Fort Collins

5K on a gravel/dirt course

Team results:

Girls: 16/23, 416 pts

Boys: 17/25, 448 pts

Individual results:

Girls

1. Alicia Nelson,18:13.70*

6. Maddy Jourgensen, 19:04.00

69. Nike Cleverly, 21:02.50

168. Megan Knez, 24:15.60

172. Laura Zirkle, 25:23.35

Boys

48. Chris Zirkle, 17:12.30

63. Colt Criswell, 17:26.30

89. Cory Wojtkiewicz, 17:42.10

90. Alfredo Lebron, 17:43.30

158. Jarred Blevins, 18:51.60

194. Jimmy Howe, 21:59.90

195. Kye Adams, 23:05.10

* Won individual state championship

High School cross country is a team sport.

Throughout the season, individual performances are geared toward earning the lowest possible team tally.

No. 2 runners push No. 1 runners, No. 3 runners push No. 2 runners and so on.

Individual glory is sacrificed to make the team better.

But not Saturday.

On Saturday, MCHS coach Todd Trapp let his team loose.

And they responded.

The Bulldogs runners rewarded Trapp's decision in the high school 4A state championships, taking home an individual championship and seven top-100 finishes.

"We had an excellent meet," Trapp said. "We came in here focusing on having a good time, improving our times and doing our best.

"You couldn't ask for a better performance."

MCHS senior Alicia Nelson won the girls 4A individual title, blazing through the 5,000-meter dirt/grass course at Fossil Ridge High School in 18 minutes, 13.7 seconds.

Sophomore Maddy Jourgensen made her claim to be the Bulldogs' next individual winner, finishing sixth overall in 19:04.

"I was hoping top-10," Jourgensen said. "So, yeah, I'm pleased with sixth.

"A mile in, I was just trying to stay as close as I could to the first pack and pass some of the girls in the back so I could be up there."

Jourgensen said she was motivated ongoing in to the race's final mile.

"I passed the Fossil Ridge girl," she said. "She beat me in a race (earlier this year) and so I was like, 'I'm going to beat that girl because she already beat me this year. She can't do it twice.'"

Fellow MCHS sophomore Nike Cleverly clocked in at 21:02.50, finishing 69th.

"I wanted to improve on my placing - which I did - and improve on my time," Cleverly said. "I wanted to cut down a minute, and I did."

Cleverly also was happy about beating her personal rival - Steamboat's Brittany Long.

"That's all I thought about at the end," she said. "I heard people yelling, 'Go Brittany, go Brittany,' and I made sure I finished ahead of her.

"I had a lot of nerves last year, but being more confident this year was really why I finished well."

Seniors Megan Knez and Laura Zirkle finished outside the top-100, but to each, the memories of being with the team and competing at the state finals is more than enough reward for a season's worth of hard work.

"I wish I could have done better, competing in front of that many people," Zirkle said. "But I had a blast this year. We had a really close team this year. All of us got along really well.

"I'm going to miss it."

"It was a really good way to finish the season," Knez said. "This is my first time at state. I started running when I was in fifth-grade, so this is the best way you could possibly end your career."

So what was going through her mind while she was competing on the high school level for the final time?

"Actually, I'm singing a song called 'There's a hole in the bottom of the sea,'" Knez said. "It's a little kids' song, but it just goes through my head all the time."

After each race, teams have a cool-down period when they run for 10 minutes to prevent cramping.

Not the boys team.

The Bulldogs boys were found in blue jeans, standing in a circle playing Hacky Sack.

"We don't have to run anymore, so who cares?" senior Colt Criswell said as he kicked the Hacky Sack toward teammate Cory Wojtkiewicz.

The boys team placed four runners in the top-90 - each at less than 18 seconds.

Sophomore Chris Zirkle - like he has done all year - led the charge, placing 48th in 17:12.27.

Criswell placed 63rd (17:26.27), Wojtkiewicz 89th (17:42) and Alfredo Lebron finished 90th in 17:43.27.

"I felt really good," Criswell said as he bandaged his foot. "It didn't really feel like a race until about a mile and a half. I wanted top-50, but it was good."

Criswell's performance was his third time competing in the state finals.

Across the Hacky Sack circle was Lebron, who competed for the first time as a freshman.

"I was really nervous," Lebron said. "I'm not too happy with the beginning, but I did good after the first mile. I was going with other people instead of trying to pass them.

"If I grow, I'll do a little better," the five-foot-tall boy said. "Everybody has a stride advantage on me."

To Trapp, the entire team grew a lot this year, and that's all he could ask for.

"Every year, you come into the season wanting to see the kids grow, get better and improve," he said. "We definitely did that this year. Everyone on this team gave it everything they had, all season, for the better of the team.

"What more could you ask for?"

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