LYONS — Put simply, the Peak to Peak girls cross country team has bigger fish to fry than any Colorado regular season meet in which they participate.
But the New Balance St. Vrain Invitational, as far as state standards go, is a race the Pumas will gladly mark on the calendar as the ultimate challenge. Furthermore, Peak to Peak won't hesitate to move up a division and run the Class 4A/5A race just to throw a few jalapenos on the pizza, so to speak.
Quinn McConnell, Anna Schults and the rest of the Pumas came to Lyons High School hungry on Saturday and the Pumas managed to finish near the top of a field that included 4A's Battle Mountain and Palmer Ridge as well as 5A Monarch.
The temperatures rose quickly despite the early start, but McConnell and Shults managed to subdue any possible problems and dominated with a 1-2 finish ahead of next week's trip to the prestigious Woodbridge Cross Country Invitational in California.
Individually and as a group, the Pumas have lofty goals that include a Class 3A team championship at the state meet. For McConnell, the individual run on Saturday took a back seat to how the team is growing and developing a base for the regional and state meets.
The praise for her team was revealed in the results, where the Pumas placed third overall with 103 points — just slightly behind a Palmer Ridge squad they'll be seeing around Orange County next week.
In addition to McConnell and Schults coming in way ahead of everyone else, Tiana Bradfield. Elle Triem and Jenna Howard all finished in the top 47 — and with times that would have been top-15 in the earlier Class 2A/3A race.
"Our goals are more towards November, so this was our first 5-(kilometer) race of the season and we're just super-high on goals," McConnell said after finishing in 18 minutes, 15 seconds to claim that race's winning time. "Getting to race with Monarch, all those teams, it's super encouraging and I think we all performed pretty well.
"You can't win without five and even seven, so we're doing a lot of team-building stuff to bring everybody along. I think it's cool that they can see they can be a part of something cool at Peak to Peak, and hopefully we'll just all stay healthy and keep working together."
McConnell was shooting for the meet record of 17:55, but the warmth of the course definitely slowed things down overall. Shults was all alone in second place at 18:35, finishing 23 seconds ahead of third place (Battle Mountain's Lizzy Harding).
Like McConnell, Schults felt decidedly confident in a high finish considering they met up against the ranked Huskies, Bears and Coyotes (Monarch placed fourth overall).
"We just want to stay united as a team and work our way towards those later races together," Shults said. "We just want to work day in, day out and try to stay under the radar. We want to put our heads down and just put good work in.
"I would say I met the challenge today. I did my best and that's all I can ask."
The 2A/3A race saw Faith Christian's Shannon King win with a time of 19:57, but Nederland's super sophomore Helen Cross, Dawson School's Lucca Fulkerson and a host of Lyons athletes finish in the top 16.
Cross, who finished 11th at state last year in 2A, placed fourth overall on Saturday with a time of 20:18. Lyons' Georgia Barone came in sixth (20:49) while Fulkerson was seventh (21:12).
With Kylee Undovich, Madeline Watts and Katie Fankhouser all lending support, the Lions finished third with just 43 points. 3A's Denver North (24 points) and The Classical Academy (40) were first and second, respectively.
"I really enjoy racing those teams because it pushes me to be my best," said Barone. "I'm so excited with our team because we don't have that one super star but we're all pretty solid and deep. It goes to show just how much of a team sport this can be."
Cross placed third at the Battle Mountain Husky Invite last week, but with an entirely different course setup finished with a time of 23:10. Saturday's placing put her in a good frame of mind for the rest of the season, she said.
"Georgia and I race together a lot, so I knew if I stuck with her I'd be OK and it felt pretty good," Cross said. "You just try and keep catching people. This is my best time and placing at this particular meet ... I think things have gone well so far and I feel improvement over last year already. Hopefully it will keep getting better."
Of note, Liz Hogan paced Monarch with a time of 19:13 while Boulder's Lauren Neugeboren and Claudia Burgess ran equal 19:27 finishes. Silver Creek's Cami Fischmann placed 15th.
New Balance St. Vrain Invitational
At Lyons HS
Team scores — Denver North 24, The Classical Academy 40, Lyons 43, Liberty Common 106, Confier 107, Peyton 139, Eaton 140, Berthoud 156, Faith Christian 157, Clear Creek 168, Estes Park 168, Prospect Ridge 218, Nederland 219, Shining Mountain 225, Vangaurd 235, Jefferson Academy 266, KIPP Denver 333, Machebeuf 336.
Top 10 individuals — 1. Shannon King, Faith Christian, 19:57; 2. Laura Romero, Denver North, 20:03; 3. Kaylee Thompson, The Classical Academy, 20:15; 4. Helen Cross, Nederland, 20:18; 5. Isla Anderson, Denver North, 20:30; 6. Georgia Barone, Lyons, 20:49; 7. Lucca Fulkerson, Dawson School, 21:12; 8. Sarah Burroughs, TCA, 21:23; 9. Esther Cornish, Denver North, 21:23; 10. Amelia Gardner, Denver North, 21:32.
Dawson School — Nami Kaneko 25:17, Anna Ridilla 26:08.
Jefferson Academy — Elizabeth Munson 24:57, Jennifer Torres 25:06, Alexandra Vialpando 25:13, Caitlyn Martinez 26:47.
Lyons — Kylee Udovich 21:33, Madeline Watts 21:54, Katie Fankhouser 22:08.
Nederland — Meg Feeley 25:14, Elysia Nitsch 25:16, Alex Sorokach 26:47.
Prospect Ridge Academy — Reagan Fischer 23:36, Emily Donohoe 24:09, Anna Ohe 24:56, Hannah Abeyta 25:26.
Shining Mountain — Abby Leuchten 22:35, Tess Leuchten 24:04, Lola Skye Conaway 25:35, Sofia Harrelson 26:59.
Team scores — Battle Mountain 71, Palmer Ridge 96, Peak to Peak 103, Monarch 136, Air Academy 146, Rocky Mountain 163, Rampart 191, Boulder 232, Silver Creek 290, Denver South 313, Erie 340, Longmont 349, Mountain 355, Roosevelt 362, Legend 385, Poudre 430, Mountain Range 454, Mead 505, Fort Morgan 512, Palisade 552, Denver East 563, Northridge 614, Vista Ridge 707.
Top 10 individuals — 1. Quinn McConnell, Peak to Peak, 18:15; 2. Anna Shults, Peak to Peak, 18:35; 3. Lizzy Harding, Battle Mountain, 18:58; 4. Liz Constien, Battle Mountain, 19:04; 5. Luna Slater, Poudre, 19:07; 6. Paige Embaugh, Air Academy, 19:09; 7. Liz Hogan, Monarch, 19:13; 8. Kyla Ramsey, Rampart, 19:14; 9. Madi Kenyon, Roosevelt, 19:18; 10. Julia Schlepp, Rocky Mountain, 19:22.
Boulder — Lauren Neugeboren 19:27, Claudia Burgess 19:27, Kate Zacharias 20:58, Julia Castillo 22:39, Annie Suzanne Grinde 23:06.
Erie — Emily Condon 20:39, Audrey Joseph 22:27, Emma Osborn 22:39, Rebekah Weigand 22:53, Isabel Sease 22:54.
Longmont — Emily Billow 20:32, Jayci Johnson 21:23, Kandice Kittinger 21:26, Erika Chavez 23:12, Debbie Chou 24:37.
Mead — Kaitlynn Salazar 21:43, Sydney Postle 22:47, Ryleigh Stephen 23:40, Maeve Debuse 24:33, Clara Roberts 25:30.
Other Monarch — Elizabeth Moore 20:31, Brooke Forsythe 20:39, Anna Wexler 20:40, Chloe Smith 20:46.
Other Peak to Peak — Tiana Bradfield 19:39, Elle Triem 20:57, Jenna Howard 21:14.
Silver Creek — Cami Fischmann 19:40, Kylie Morgan 21:24, Alyssa Morgan 21:53, Kate Eggen 22:44, Briar Bell 22:59.