COLORADO SPRINGS — Most surprises are the pleasant ones.
For Nederland sophomore Helen Cross, winning the Class 2A individual title at the state cross country meet was a shock to her system — one that was massaged by knowing she was coming into the race with the third-fastest time of any girl in the classification.
But setting a classification meet record at the Norris Penrose Event Center and having it all be a part of a team title for the Panthers was just icing on the cake.
"I didn't know I would do it this year, and I just didn't feel prepared, so it's really exciting and I am proud of myself," Cross said after finishing with a time of 18 minutes, 52 seconds to join three-time winner Kelley Robinson as the only girls to win titles for Nederland in the sport. "I did have some confidence coming in knowing I had a good time. But I also knew (Telluride's) Soleil (Gaylord) was really fast."
As a freshman, Cross finished just outside the top 10 at the state meet. She gained confidence throughout this season, and in winning the Class 2A Region 1 title put herself in a good position mentally to attack the way she wanted to.
But, it took passing Gaylord, one of the favorites, toward the latter half of the race before she started to believe.
"I think coming downhill I saw Soleil and knew I could be faster and that I just had to really push myself," Cross said. "Then across the creek I felt like I could kick it in and beat her. "
The Panthers were expected to do well, and with senior Sarah Davidson finishing third (19:29) and freshman Elysia Nitsch placing 21st, Nederland won its fifth team title in the sport and first since 2011.
"In the cold, Nederland just does really well," Cross said. "We were lucky to have it be pretty chilly."
The BoCoPreps coverage area saw six females finish in the top 10 of the 2A race: in addition to the Panthers, Dawson School's Lucca Fulkerson placed fourth, Shining Mountain's Emma Schaefer was eighth and the Lyons pair of Katie Fankhouser and Kylee Udovich were ninth and 10th, respectively.