Bulldog Harriers outperform rankings to qualify for state meet | CraigDailyPress.com

Bulldog Harriers outperform rankings to qualify for state meet

David Pressgrove / For Craig Press
Hayden runners Keaton Knez, left, and Kale Johnson stay in step as they start the second mile of the Whistle Pig Invite for Moffat County High School cross country.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Daily Press

Both Moffat County High School cross country teams and their coaches knew going into the Class 3A Region 1 meet in Durango, that a trip to state was not guaranteed. They hopped on the bus for the long trip back home on Friday with tickets to the state meet punched. 

“All week we talked about the teams we knew we had to beat and knowing the matchups we had to win,” head coach Todd Trapp said. “Every spot mattered to get to state and I’m really proud of how well everyone raced.” 

On paper, the Bulldog harriers were on the outside-looking-in going into the meet. According to CHSAAnow.com both teams went into the region meet seeded fourth. In a normal year that would mean that they were seeded to be the last team to qualify for the state meet. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, the state meet limitations only allow the top three teams from each region to go to state this year.

Trapp said his athletes did not go into the meet expecting super-human efforts and regional titles, but with a road map to get to Colorado Springs next week. 

“We knew on the boys side that it was probably going to come down to us and Aspen for the third spot,” he said. “For the girls, Aspen and Basalt were pretty far out front, but we thought we could mix it up with Alamosa.”

That is exactly how it played out for the ‘Dogs. Alamosa, who was moved into Region 1 this year, and Gunnison set the pace for the boys with their top five runners scoring 47 and 61 points respectively. The Bulldogs packed it up, and despite having no finisher in the top 10, were able to secure a third-place finish with 116 points. Aspen was a distant fourth with 141 points. 

The Boys in Blue were lead by senior Keaton Knez who finished the 5,000 meter race in 13th (17 minutes, 39 seconds), junior Kale Johnson (15th, 17:56), junior Carter Behrman (22nd, 18:26), sophomore Boden Reidhead, (32, 18:53), freshman Owen Gifford (34, 18:56) and junior Logan Hafey (35, 19:10).

This season races were divided into waves of 25 runners, with each wave separated by 60 seconds. Trapp said each of the boys knew their role in their wave.

“Keaton, Kale and Carter knew where they needed to be in the first wave and really competed like they knew they could,” he said. “Boden, Owen and Logan got in there for the second wave and made some inroads.” 

The fast times were also something to write home about. “I’m sure they were excited to see those times drop,” Trapp said. “I know Keaton had felt like he was stuck in the 18s and he busted that open today.”

The team with a target on its back for the Moffat girls was Alamosa. The Mean Moose came into the meet as the favorites to join front runners Basalt and Aspen in Cheyenne Mountain next week. They finished better than the Bulldogs in their only shared event in the middle of September, but Trapp had the feeling that his ladies were ready to change that.

“Our girls had really come along lately and I had a feeling they were going to be ready for the challenge,” he said. “Just like with the boys, every spot mattered and they went after it.” 

Similar to the boys, the girls did not have a runner up front, but the pack of senior Kelsey McDiffett (9th, 20:24), junior Halle Hamilton (11th, 20:24) and junior Emma Jones (13th, 20:45) kept the score low in the first wave. As the second wave of athletes started coming through the Lady Bulldogs were right in the hunt with Alamosa’s pack. Junior Bree Meats (31st) senior Alayna Behrman (35th) and senior Tiana Nichols (51st).

“Bree, Alayna and Tiana had great races to compliment how well our top three finished and we pulled it off,” Trapp said. 

As the scores came in, Aspen and Basalt, both top-5 teams in Class 3A pulled away with 51 and 57 points, respectively. And the last ticket punched went to the Bulldogs with 99 points, to Alamosa’s 108. Head-to-head the difference maker was Jones’ 13th-place finish compared to Alamosa’s No. three coming in 20th, and Behrman’s 35th to the Mean Moose’s 40th place finish in the fifth runner score. 

A cherry on the top for the Bulldogs’ strong performance was that they were the only school to qualify both teams for state.

“We couldn’t take qualifying for granted this year,” Trapp said. “In the middle of the season I wasn’t sure if we’d have anyone go. Both teams came a long way from that point to today.”

Full results from Friday’s 3A Region 1 cross country meet can be found here.

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