COLORADO SPRINGS — Boulder High cross country runner Claudia Burgess kicked off her prep career in with a bang in 2014 by placing third in Class 5A at the state meet.
Burgess followed that performance up with a fifth-place finish as a sophomore. But throughout her junior season, she simply didn't feel good in any of her races and ended the season by slipping backwards into 15th place at the state meet.
At the cross country state championships on Saturday, Burgess proved, once and for all, that she regained her form in the fall of 2017. Flourishing in her final race as a Panther, Burgess completed the challenging course at Norris-Penrose Event Center in 18 minutes, 16.6 seconds to place third in 5A one more time.
"It wasn't like there was any one girl who was definitely going to win the race and we were all just duking it out," Burgess said. "I felt really good at the beginning and just sort of tucked myself in there. During the last mile, I had no idea what was going to happen because I was dying. This year, I feel like I've picked up my training a lot and found out what works for me.
"It feels incredible to get third again because after a little bit, you lose hope. I think a lot of people go through a little funk but it makes you stronger, and now I feel like I'm stronger than ever."
Burgess' time was by far her personal best on the state course, but it was far from the biggest surprise of this year's 5A girls race.
Legacy's Brynn Siles, who placed seventh as a freshman last season and entered the race as a favorite to contend for the individual title, was a late scratch because of injury and did not compete. The Broomfield girls team, a nationally-ranked unit that expected to race neck-and-neck with Mountain Vista for the team title, finished runners-up a surprising 28 points behind the state champion Golden Eagles.
"I don't know what happened," Broomfield senior Ivy Gonzales said. "It was just not a good day for us, I guess."
Though it was a disappointing day by her and the Eagles' standards, Gonzales still placed fourth individually with a time of 18:20.3 to cap off her senior season.
"It was OK," Gonzales said. "I was going for the win but I think we were all pretty close. It was a really tight finish so I can't complain. It's really nerve-racking when you're all together and you're trying to make a move, but then someone else makes a move. It was just a tough race."
Eagles sophomore Sydney Swanker (19:03.5) placed 22nd, senior Laura Thompson (19:11.1) placed 27th, senior Madison Mooney (19:13.2) placed 29th and senior Katelyn Mitchem (29:16.9) placed 32nd.
Fairview's Isabella Bowland finished in 18:54.9 to place 15th and Monarch's Liz Hogan placed 20th with a time of 18:59.4