The cross country season may be over for some, but it's just starting to heat up in earnest for the Peak to Peak girls team.
On Saturday, the two-time defending Class 3A state champions from Colorado competed at the Nike Cross Regionals Southwest. The Pumas, who swept the top three individual places in the 3A race at this fall's state championships, did quite well for themselves at Grande Sports Academy in Casa Grande, Ariz.
After placing second in 3A, Pumas junior Anna Shults, in particular, really hit her stride at the regional level. Finishing the course in 17 minutes, 19 seconds, Shults placed fourth overall and was one of six total runners from NXR Southwest to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 2 in Portland, Ore.
"She actually even had some stomach troubles during the race but she overcame and used her incredible kick to get all the way up to fourth," Pumas head coach Kim McConnell said. "She's had the goal of getting to NXN all season and it's great that she got it done."
Near the end of the race, Pumas teammate and two-time Colorado state champion Quinn McConnell was in third while Shults was in a group of four runners behind her. Using each other to push, all four kicked down the stretch and passed McConnell, who finished in seventh place. The top two teams and top five individuals not on qualifying teams earn spots at NXN. Because Jenna Fitzsimmons placed sixth but still qualified as a member of her Vista Nation XC team, McConnell missed the NXN cut by one place.
It was a disappointing finish for Quinn McConnell. Overall, however, it was a strong showing for the Pumas.
"Eighth in the region for a 3A school is not bad," Kim McConnell said. "We'd like to do better, and we think we could have, but as we develop, I think that we can maybe give some people a run next year."
Quinn McConnell and teammate Tiana Bradfield, who placed 46th on Saturday, will go and race Footlocker Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wisc., this Saturday and try a second time to qualify for a national championship.
Qualifying for Nike Cross Nationals, Monarch's Charlie Perry finished sixth in the boys championship race and collapsed as he cross the finish line. Perry found out an hour later that since fourth-place finisher Brandon Garnica qualified with his Springville Cross team, he was the fifth individual qualifier and received a spot at nationals.
A number of other local runners from the BoCoPreps.com area did well at NXR Southwest.
In the boys championship race, Monarch's Isaac Russo placed 18th, Silver Creek's James Lee placed 20th, Broomfield's Michael Mooney placed 22nd and Brock Dykema placed 23rd. In the girls championship race, Fairview's Isabella Bowland placed 18th, Broomfield's Madison Mooney placed 19th, Broomfield's Ivy Gonzales placed 30th and teammate Katelyn Mitchem placed 34th.