COLORADO SPRINGS — For the Peak to Peak girls cross country team, defending their Class 3A team title at the 2017 state championships meant a whole heck of a lot less drama than in 2016 when they first won it.
And junior Quinn McConnell definitely wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
The Pumas girls captured the girls title rather handily over Steamboat Springs on Saturday afternoon, and it was a Pumas sweep of the top three positions with McConnell, Anna Shults and Tiana Bradfield all flashing their new brand new blue uniforms in sequence at the stadium finish at the Norris Penrose Event Center.
McConnell got back atop the podium after having such a disappointing finish — a scary one, at that — in last year's race while Shults improved one spot from her third place finish last year. Bradfield's climb up from 12th a year ago was huge in Peak to Peak's quest.
"The three of us are best friends and we train hard every single day together, and this was a goal for us for quite awhile," McConnell said after coming in with a time of classification meet record 18:31. "When Tiana got third in the (1,600 meter race) at state (track), it was kind of like, 'Wow, I wonder if we could get 1-2-3 at state (cross country).' I knew she could do it."
Rarely are a leading group able to "pack" race, but Bradfield said that the trio were really able to rely on each other throughout the race in order to build up for a strong finish. Allison Beasley, just a freshman, helped the Pumas considerably with her 25th place finish.
"How we went into racing it was to go out there and really progress the second mile and throw in a couple surges to really get as close as I could to Anna," Bradfield said, her time 18:48. "In the end, I just wanted to work with the team and wanting to race for all these amazing girls."
"I'm super proud of our team and we just have worked hard to stay united," Shults added after coming in at 18:38. "We wanted to surprise some people, do our best and represent Peak to Peak well."
For McConnell, however, the win marked a significant point in her career in being able to come back and win individually for a second time. She also took the title as a freshman but fell victim to fatigue in her sophomore season — setting up the stretch that saw both herself and Denver North's Kayla Young falling in the stadium multiple times before crossing the finish line.
Young finished first and McConnell took second.
McConnell's spirits were lifted by the team finish last year, but she was happy to be a champion again.
"It feels like a little redemption, because it really took quite awhile for me to recover from that," McConnell said. "I've had this race in the back of my mind since that happened. When I got into the stadium I kept on thinking, don't fall, don't fall. It feels amazing to get the win."