COLORADO SPRINGS -- There was no dramatic come-from-behind victory or photo finish for Niwot's Elise Cranny at her final prep cross country state championship. Not even close.
Going out on top where she belongs, Cranny defended her Class 4A state title by finishing her final prep cross country race in 18 minutes, 7.8 seconds, setting a course record at the Norris-Penrose Event Center. Cranny intended for her final race with the Cougars cross country squad to end in victory.
In her triumphant finale, Cranny shared the finish line's silhouette with no one. The gallery's applause was all for her.
"The most special thing is that it was my last high school cross country meet and I definitely just wanted to enjoy it," Cranny said. "I wanted to get under 18, but oh well. I took it out stronger this year and I ran confidently. I just ran within myself and tried to keep the lead the whole way. I was cautious on the hill and I didn't want to use up all my energy."
Maybe Cranny didn't break the 18-minute mark and she may have been cautious at times. But her pace must have seemed reckless and of the breakneck variety to opponents who watched her disappear around turns and over hills, reappear smaller than before and eventually vanish for good.
The Cougars senior did, after all, obliterate the course record, which previously was set at 18:16.5 by Pine Creek's Heather Bates in the 2012 Class 5A championship race.
Cranny exploded onto the scene as Colorado's best prep distance runner last season. Throughout her senior season, however, Cranny has undoubtedly been one of the top runners nationwide.
Quite a different runner than a year ago, Cranny showed just how different on Saturday. In 2012, she finished one tenth of a second ahead of Air Academy's Katie Rainsberger. A year later, she outran the Air Academy sophomore by 40 seconds.
"I've just been doing harder workouts and training harder and that's led to my development and the progress I've made," Cranny said. "I also think I was more confident in my training than last year. Last year I was confident in my training but I didn't really translate that to my race. I kind of ran scared and I ran her race instead. This year, I wanted to set the pace and control my own race. I wanted to go out aggressively and see whether she came with me or not."
While Cranny awed the crowd on Saturday, Cougars head coach Sam Catterson knew the game plan. Once the race started, he just watched it unfold with everyone else.
"She knew no one was going to go with her early so she was out there pushing by herself the whole time, breaking the course record on a very tough day when we saw a lot of girls struggle," Catterson said. "Trying to go with Elise is basically suicide for a high school girl in Colorado these days. You fall apart if you try to go with her. She knew she had to be out there alone and doing the work. That's just how it went."
Cranny nearly left the cross country scene as part of a team championship, as well.
The Cougars girls team, which finished 10th in 2012, took second-place, finishing 10 points behind team champion Thompson Valley. After barely cracking the top 10 behind Cranny's individual title last season, the rest of the Cougars showed some drastic improvement of their own at this year's finals.
Junior Christa Boettiger took 12th-place in 20:07.0. Freshman Jenna McCaffrey finished 27th in 20:37.0 and sophomore Emily Cranny, Elise Cranny's younger sister, took 59th in 21:22.2. Junior Katie Gillett finished 62nd in 21:28.3 to round out the team scoring.
"As a team, we did well," Boettiger said. "It's definitely a close competition with Thompson Valley, Battle Mountain and Mountain View. We've been working really hard and we've all matured this year. We also had some really good people who weren't running with us last year so we're happy with the improvement."
In the 4A boys race, the Cougars finished seventh in the team scoring.
Leading the way for the Cougars boys, junior Jake Fisk took 22nd in 17:24.0. Junior Joe Plunkett placed 27th in 17:29.8, junior Tom Plunkett placed 72nd in 18:10.7, senior Austin Schuler placed 79th in 18:18.8, sophomore Isaac Flores placed 81st in 18:19.1, junior Niels Snow placed 106th in 18:31.5 and junior Will Krebs placed 131st in 18:51.6.
The Cougars boys were 14th last season.
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Class 4A cross country state final
At Norris-Penrose Event Center
Team scores -- Broomfield 89, Classical Academy 123, Coronado 129, Pueblo West213, Air Academy 214, Cheyenne Mountain 219, Niwot 229, Durango 268, Erie 268, Denver North 271, Palmer Ridge 275, Mountain View 311, Thompson Valley 312, Evergreen 325, Eagle Valley 398, Battle Mountain 408, Ponderosa 420, Green Mountain 420, Golden486, Montrose 492, Pueblo South 504, Berthoud509, Lewis-Palmer 528, Fort Morgan 573.
Top 10 individuals -- 1. Liam Meirow, Summit, 16:27.1; 2. Ethan Gonzales, Broomfield,16:29.6; 3. Michael Duran, Pueblo Centennial, 16:43.4; 4. Conner Wilburn, Classical Academy, 16:44.9; 5. William Mayhew, Cheyenne Mountain, 16:46.5; 6. Eric Hamer, Palmer Ridge, 16:46.6; 7. Ricardo Ocampo, Broomfield, 16:49.6; 8. Carter Prescott, D'Evelyn, 16:51.7; 9. Phillip Reid, Ponderosa, 17:03.2; 10. Jake Link, Centaurus, 17:08.7.
Other Broomfield results -- 26. Jake Mitchem, 17:29.3; 34. Jake Morris, 17:40.6; 44. Daniel Alvarez-Chao, 17:50.0; 96. Jared Durney, 18:26.7; 104. Cody Armstrong, 18:30.7
Niwot results -- 22. Jake Fisk, 17:24.0; 27. Joe Plunkett, 17:29.8; 72. Tom Plunkett, 18:10.7; 79. Austin Schuler, 18:18.8; 81. Isaac Flores, 18:19.1; 106. Niels Snow, 18:31.5; 131. Will Krebs, Niwot, 18:51.6.
Erie results -- 31. Dylan Larkin, 17:37.4; 51. Andrew Yurko, 17:55.3; 113. Kyle Leahy, 18:36.4; 117. Matt Sease, 18:39.6; 145. Kyle True, 19:03.4; 150. Richard Ostrander, 19:08.5.
Team scores -- Thompson Valley 135, Niwot 145, Battle Mountain 151, Mountain View 160, Classical Academy 185, Air Academy 216, Cheyenne Mountain 221, Evergreen 233, Palmer Ridge 261, Durango 295, Coronado 300, Summit 304, Discovery Canyon 325, Broomfield 328, Golden 366, Wheat Ridge 395, Silver Creek 400, D'Evelyn 443, Windsor 450, Centaurus 457, Pueblo South 510, Canon City 518, Erie 519, Montrose 686.
Top 10 individuals -- 1. Elise Cranny, Niwot, 18:07.8; 2. Katie Rainsberger, Air Academy, 18:47.4; 3. Alison Deitsch, Palmer Ridge, 19:19.5; 4. Valerie Constien, Battle Mountain, 19:33.8; 5. Greta VanCalcar, Palisade, 19:34.9; 6. Lexi Reed, D'Evelyn, 19:40.3; 7. Riley Cooney, Mountain View, 19:42.3; 8. Gabrielle Roth, Coronado, 19:52.9; 9. Lauren Offerman, Mountain View, 19:54.6; 10. Lauren Hamilton, Classical Academy, 20:00.6.
Other Niwot results -- 12. Christa Boettiger, 20:07.0; 27. Jenna McCaffrey, 20:37.0 ; 59. Emily Cranny, 21:22.2; 62. Katie Gillett, 2128.3; 97. Niki Marshall, 22:10.1; Kela Fetters, 22:50.0.
Broomfield results -- 40. Regan Vandepol, 20:51.5; 51. Katie Forsee, 21:11.7; 70. Ally Malecha, 21:36.0; 100. Christina Kennedy, 22:13.5; 116. Emma Moon, 22:27.8; Kara Skattum, 23:07.5.
Silver Creek results -- Mikayla Gaffney, 20:27.9; 96. Taylor Stinson, 22:10.0; 98. Maiya Jazwierska, 22:10.2; 119. Allison Howlett, 22:29.4; 128. Sage Madden, 22:36.9; 151. Samantha Koski, 23:12.5; 164. Brissa Ramirez, 23:38.4.
Erie results -- 58. Amelia Sease, 21:21.6; 126. Haley Gallagher, 22:35.8; 133. Kaitlyn Clark, 22:42.3; 135. Zena Mazanares, 22:52.2; 141. Marissa Atkins, 23:01.0; 154. Jamie Hogan, 23:18.7; 169. Lauren Powell, 24:04.2.