Moffat County, Craig Middle School runners take ups, downs at Eagle Valley Invite
GYPSUM — After their last competition on flat, suburban streets of Littleton, the grassy slopes of Gypsum Creek Golf Course were a change of pace to say the least for Moffat County High School runners, but Bulldogs kept their stride nonetheless.
MCHS boys placed fifth overall and girls sixth among 17 schools at Saturday’s Eagle Valley Invitational.
After gaining the gold at the previous week’s Liberty Bell Invite, Wyatt Mortenson took the silver this time, clocking in at 16:39.8, while the Classical Academy’s Mason Norman kept a strong lead throughout the 5K to win at 16:01.8 and set a new course record in the boys race.
Mortenson’s time at Eagle Valley wasn’t as strong as his personal record set at Liberty Bell, though that was to be expected in the contrast of terrains, he said.
The course at Gypsum Creek, roughly three miles around the links, was full of dips and inclines, with the middle segment the most grueling.
“The first mile is really quick, then the second mile is tough,” he said. “I really want to work on my splits. I ran a really fast first mile, but the second was a lot slower. I want to keep an even pace through the race. I think that’ll help.”
Four of the top five runners for the Dogs were from Hayden, including Chris Carrouth at 12th, Keaton Knez 45th and Theo Corrello at 54th in the field of 244 boys, while Coltyn Terry was fourth among his teammates at 47th overall.
“I was pretty proud of what I did today. Hard course, but I kept with everybody,” Terry said. “That second mile has some bad footing. All it is is potholes everywhere.”
The layout is one that defines the Devils’ race to prove a test to harriers, coach Todd Trapp said.
“There’s some rollers here, and about three-quarters of that second mile is just a real gradual uphill climb,” he said. “This is a really competitive meet with a lot of good 3A teams.”
Following their group win at Liberty Bell, MCHS girls faced strong competition from Steamboat Springs — the race won by the Sailors’ Maggi Congdon with a new course record — and Classical Academy’s team victory.
Lady Bulldogs’ usual order shuffled around at Eagle Valley, Halle Hamilton putting on a final burst of speed for 19th and 20:57.9, with Kelsey McDiffett doing the same for 21st, two-tenths of a second behind her.
McDiffett said she felt more prepared physically after an off day at Liberty Bell that was impacted by a small but crucial factor.
“I had two huge blisters at Liberty Bell when I put my spikes on, and it was much better today,” she said.
The girls’ usual pacesetter, Hayden’s Makenna Knez, was right behind McDiffett at 22nd.
“Halle really helps to push me and Makenna to do even better,” McDiffett said.
Emma Jones was 38th, and Lydia Berkoff took 50th for varsity points.
“I’m just coming off the tail end of a cold, so it wasn’t my best. Wasn’t great, wasn’t bad,” Berkoff said.
Berkoff hit a personal best during Liberty Bell, though the MCHS senior has set her sights on cutting even more time by breaking the 20-minute mark before season’s end.
“It’s pretty ambitious, but I think I can do it,” she said.
The change in finishing order from week to week is one coach Todd Trapp encourages, as running close together proves a strength for the team.
“Our top three all came within three seconds of each other, which is great for their success because any week it could be one of them and they’re all working for it,” he said.
Craig Middle School cross country hit the course as well for a two-mile run, with the boys team one point away from winning the entire shebang, led by Owen Gifford (6th), Boden Reidhead (10th), Noah Mortenson (12th), Grady Wooden (18th) and Ian Trevenen (25th).
CMS girls earned sixth as a team, with Brook Wheeler 15th, Joslyn Bacon 19th, Ariana Buchanan 22nd, Sarah Johnson 43rd and Brooklynn Kroese and Alyssa LeWarne neck and neck at 44th and 45th.
The turnout alone for the middle school level has been encouraging for coach Chad Backsen.
“We have 33 kids this year, the biggest team I’ve ever had,” he said. “They’re really a good, focused group and work really hard.”
MCHS and CMS distance runners will hit the same meet again during Friday’s Shana Ward Memorial Invite in Saratoga, Wyoming.