TELLURIDE – Three years ago, Telluride High School had no cross country program. Now, the Miners will be sending both a boys and girls team to the State Championship in Denver next Saturday. What’s more, the Telluride Harriers are in a position to crack the top five in both the girls and boys races.
At the 2A Western Region Championships last weekend, the Telluride boys team captured first place and the girls took home third.
“I was so proud of how the kids competed” said a Coach Keith Hampton following the awards ceremony. “We’ve got a pretty young squad with only two seniors, so it was a challenge to get it done against more experienced teams.”
Battling inclement weather, last year’s defending state champion, junior Ty Williams, moved quickly to the front of the pack in the 5k race. He was followed closely by senior co-captain Colten Rogers, sophomore Nathan Loomis, and sophomore Cameron Bowman.
“Our strategy was to get out quickly and control the race from the front” explained Williams. “We knew that there would be strong competition from Lewis (Mancos) and Scoggins (Rangely).”
It was clear that weeks of training on the hills around Telluride had paid off as the Miners used the hill to get ahead of their nearest rivals. By the two-mile mark, Williams had broken away in first place with Rogers, Loomis and Bowman holding down fifth, sixth and seventh places, respectively. Senior Gabe Torres, Telluride’s fifth runner, had moved up to 10th. By the finish Telluride had locked its first place team finish with 12 points, well ahead of regional rival Mancos, who finished with 24.
In the girls’ race, Telluride knew it would have its hands full with top-five-ranked Crested Butte and Mancos teams. Sophomore captain Rachel Hampton was a pre-race favorite, but faced tough competition against last years’ first and third place finishers, Erin Kelly of Crested Butte and Kelsey Corbin of Mancos.
“Our region is always one of the strongest for distance runners” noted Hampton. “Maybe it is the altitude or the hills, but it’s always tough qualifying out of our area.” By mile one, the pack had stretched out with Hampton in third, Josephine Bush in fifth and Jessie Hild in 11th.
“By the one-and-a-half mile mark I could see that Crested Butte had a lock on fist, but I knew we were in a battle with Mancos for second. By my count we were just two points behind at that point.” Rachel Hampton kept it close up front with just a half mile to go, trailing Corbin by just 15 seconds. Hampton made repeated surges to try to close the gap, but could not quite catch the speedy Mancos runner.
Telluride’s final score of 18 was their best ever in a Regional Championship, but still one point shy of Mancos’ second place score of 17. Crested Butte won the team title with a low score of 11.
The State Championship will be held at Arapahoe County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
“The kids are running great” said Coach Hampton. “We just need to focus on running our race and not get caught up in the excitement of the event… In cross country, the team aspect is really important. If we can keep our runners bunched together at the front, no one will beat us.”