At their last meet, the Moffat County High School boys and girls cross-country teams took home first place in every category.
So, it only made sense to do the same thing again, only at a higher level.
The MCHS runners repeated their sweep of the Oct. 14 Rifle Invitational by winning the 4A Region 5 meet Saturday in Cortez.
The boys and girls teams each won overall in their division, while seniors Chris Zirkle and Maddy Jourgensen led the way during each competition.
The two each came in first, with times of 17 minutes and 34 seconds and an even 21 minutes, respectively.
The win is the seventh straight for Zirkle, who faced stiff competition from Glenwood Springs runner Andrew Mansfield, winning only by one second.
“It feels really good,” Zirkle said of his victory. “I won last year in Aspen. I wanted to win it again this year, but it was a lot harder this year. The competition was so steep.”
Zirkle finished with a time of 17 minutes, 23 seconds at the regional meet last year. One difference was this year’s course, the Montezuma County Fairgrounds, which were wet and muddy.
“It was a change of pace,” Zirkle said. “We don’t usually run in mud, but it was kind of fun. Over by the stands it gets really muddy and that was probably the worst part because it was the end of the race and you want to hold those guys off. I just kept thinking in my head, ‘They’ve got to run on it, too.’”
Jourgensen said she enjoyed the track.
“This course is so much different than anything I’ve ever ran on. It was fun to be running through mud,” she said. “Coming down the hill, it was all gooey and we were sliding, but it was fun.”
MCHS coach Todd Trapp said his runners were prepared for the conditions.
“The course was difficult. Very slippery, very sloppy, but that’s cross-country,” he said “Everyone has to run on the same course, today.”
With 14 total Bulldog runners representing MCHS, the rest of the pack finished strong, with junior Alfredo Lebron and freshman Brenna Ciesco placing sixth in the boys and girls races, respectively.
Juniors Rene Molina, Johnny Landa and Dale Nakai came in 16th, 17th and 23rd, respectively. Seniors Jarred Blevins and Kye Adams were 25th and 36th, respectively.
The boys team also took first in regionals last year.
Trapp said the precedent raised expectations for his team in the eyes of competitors, especially second-place Glenwood.
“We had a target on us because we won last year and coming in, we were the favorite,” Trapp said. “Everyone was definitely looking at us as, ‘That’s the team to beat.’ We had some great competition. The Glenwood boys ran really well today and we had some kids that ran really well.”
The girls improved on their performance from last year, when they were runners-up to Montrose by one point.
Behind Jourgensen and Ciesco were senior Nike Cleverly placing 11th, while sophomores Bailey Hellander, Sassy Murray and Eryn Leonard placed 18th, 21st and 22nd, respectively.
Like Adams in the boys race, junior Kelly Ciesco finished 36th.
“The girls ran very strong. Everyone was in position from the start of the race,” Trapp said. “They were where they were supposed to be, and basically carried out the plan that we talked about. The girls had a great race.”
Next on the schedule for the MCHS cross-country runners is the state championships in Cherry Creek.
“We had a really hard team effort here, and hopefully that carries on over into state,” Jourgensen said. “We know we can place pretty high, we’re having a good year, so hopefully that all works out. Our team feels really good about how we’re finishing.”