Erin Kelly claims the 5k
The Crested Butte cross country team traveled to the eastern plains last weekend to participate in the Limon Invitational, which has become a precursor of sorts for the 1A/2A Colorado State Cross Country Meet. More than 20 teams participated in the meet, including the top-ranked boys’ and girls’ teams from the Front Range.
The course and the conditions were unlike any the Titans had ever experienced, as the course zig-zagged across a small, hilly, nine-hole golf course, and the 30+ mph wind was relentless. But the 12 Crested Butte runners were unfazed by the high-end competition and the odd, wind-blown course and came away with two first-place individual finishes, seven personal-record (PR) times, two season-best times, and one second-place team finish.
Erin Kelly set the tone for Crested Butte’s success in the 5k girls’ race, where she went head-to-head against the Robinson sisters from Nederland. Even though Erin has been winning every meet handily this season, she was very nervous about facing the Ned girls, and with good reason. This was their first race against one another since the 2008 Colorado State Cross Country Meet, where Erin took second to one sister and came in just in front of the other.
It was a different story on Saturday, however, as Erin immediately jumped out in front of the entire field and never looked back. She cruised to the finish line with a time of 19:48, 33 seconds in front of Kat Robinson, who placed second, and a full minute in front of Kelley Robinson, who was third.
Not far behind were Amber Scott, who placed 13th (first freshman overall) with a personal-best time of 22:47, and junior Hannah Smith, who finished 15th despite a lingering sore calf from the week before.
The rest of the Crested Butte girls fed off the front-runners’ momentum, as junior Jena D’Aquila sliced 1:37 off her previous best time and came across the line in 24:45; sophomore Shelby Kopf took 44 seconds off her previous PR, finishing in 25:01, and junior Madeline Malzhan ran her fastest time all season with a time of 25:06.
Junior Jessie D’Aquila had an incredible start to her race, but unfortunately took a tumble about half-way through and injured her calf. Even so, she still finished the race with a respectable time of 32:19.
Three first-year runners participated in the girls’ junior varsity race, and all three posted personal-best times. Taylor O’Neal took second overall with a time of 25:45, almost two minutes faster than her previous PR, while Leah Wrisley and Sofia Deer crossed the finish line in 31 minutes, a full four minutes faster than their previous best times.
The boys’ race was a little more suspenseful, but in the end, the result was the same: a Titan on top. Senior Nicholas Harper-Johnston ran a smart, tactical race on Saturday by drafting behind other runners while making his way to the front. By mile two, he was in the lead and gaining ground with every step. He won the race in 17:46, besting his previous best time (which was set on a flat course in calm conditions) by 11 seconds.
Sophomore David Bright also ran a smart race and used other runners to his advantage as much as he could. He finished the race in 42nd place with a time of 21:07, his fastest time all season.
Next, the Titan runners travel to the hills of Aspen on Saturday to participate in the Chris Severy Invitational, where times are often thrown away (or lost by the timing system), and strategy and strong ankles are the must-haves for the day.