Below are the winners from Tuesday night’s Moffat County High School varsity cross-country awards banquet.
Academic all-state athletes (3.6 grade point average or higher)
First team all-conference
Alex McCoy (honorable mention)
Girls team most valuable runner
Boys team most valuable runner
Despite the same end result, both the Moffat County High School boys and girls cross-country teams started at very different points.
For the boys, it was a year to prove they could wrestle the league title from Battle Mountain High School.
The girls were not even sure they would have a team, and with a team full of underclassmen, they still placed second in the Western Slope League.
Both teams finished ninth at the state meet and to commemorate the past year’s successful season, the cross-country team had its award banquet Tuesday night.
The accomplishments didn’t end when the season did, either.
Nike Cleverly, Maddy Jourgensen, Corey Wojtikiewicz and Jimmy Howe finished with a grade point average above 3.6 to win academic all-state honors.
Jourgensen, Eryn Leonard and Chris Zirkle were named to the all-conference team, and Alex McCoy was honorable mention.
Zirkle won the most valuable runner for the boys, and Jourgensen claimed the honors for the girls squad.
Being named to the all-conference team wasn’t unexpected for Zirkle.
“It feels pretty good — I was hoping for it,” he said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure, but it was definitely something I was shooting for. I worked pretty hard for it.”
It was a season that almost didn’t happen for the girls, coach Todd Trapp said, as the girls squad only returned two runners.
“Going in, I wouldn’t have expected a ninth-place finish at the state meet,” he said. “Looking back to last year, after the season was over, Maddy and Nike asked me if we would even have a team this year. Somehow, we were able to put together a full team.”
With freshmen like Eryn Leonard, Bailey Hellander, Sassy Murray and Rose Howe the team was complete.
More importantly, the team was quickly becoming competitive as the season started, Trapp said.
“When we started this year, we knew we had two juniors and a couple of freshmen on the team,” he said. “I knew we had work to do.”
Soon, it was the girls team going to work on the Western Slope League, Trapp said.
In the first meet at Arapahoe, the girls lined up with more than 20 schools, most of which were in division 5A, Trapp said.
“I had no idea what to expect, but they finished right in the middle,” he said. “That’s when we started to think this team could go places.”
A strong showing at the Liberty Bell meet and wins at home and at Grand Junction Central cemented Moffat County’s place as a contender for the league title, Trapp said.
“At the start of the year, we wanted to compete for one of the last spots to qualify for the state meet,” he said. “As the year went on, we thought we had a good shot at winning the regional meet. It was between us and Montrose.”
The girls ran as well as they had all season, but Montrose was able to edge Moffat County by one point to win the league title.
Despite being delayed by one week because of snow, the team ran at the state meet in Fort Collins and finished ninth overall for division 4A.
But, the girls showed other improvement during the year, Trapp said.
“We had a time trial on our course at the beginning of the year and again on the Saturday when we were originally supposed to be at the state meet,” he said. “On average, our girls improved by two minutes. It really is unbelievable to see how much these girls improved and how much they learned and pushed themselves.”
The boys team was less of a mystery, Trapp said.
“After the state meet last year, they decided that maybe it wasn’t their best race and they weren’t satisfied,” he said. “They knew what it would take to reach the next level and we knew we had a great group returning. They all dedicated themselves after the state meet last year.”
Battle Mountain had taken over the title as the Western Slope League’s top team from Moffat County four years ago, Trapp said.
“We knew it was a possibility for the guys to beat Battle Mountain and bring the title back to Moffat County,” he said.
The team didn’t disappoint, either.
With Zirkle leading the way, the boys placed first at the regional meet in Aspen.
At the state meet, injuries hampered a team that had top-five potential, Trapp said.
“We were so close to the top five,” he said. “It was only a 30-point swing. From ninth to third was a 50-point swing. To be that close is pretty unbelievable.”