LAFAYETTE — The Centaurus boys cross country team wore colorful matching dinosaur shorts during its varsity race Saturday morning. The girls team, meanwhile, took part in a small gift exchange before its run.
It's all a part of the Warriors' desire to establish a family culture across their squad this season. And at their own meet, on a gorgeous day by the lake, they certainly felt right at home.
The girls team finished first and the boys took second to Dakota Ridge at the Centaurus Cross Country Invitational at Waneka Lake Park, while Broomfield's Sydney Swanker (19 minutes and 14 seconds) and Dakota Ridge's Austin Vancil (15:51) grabbed top individual honors.
It was a solid showing in meet No. 1 for the Warriors, who hope it can transfer into more success come late October at the state meet.
Now until then, though, their focus is staying together. Silly shorts and knick-knack gifts can go a long way in helping that.
"We're a family and I think that's really important," said Centaurus coach Devin Rourke, who also assumed the role of meet director Saturday. "We have a lot of traditions on our team and — you know running is hard. Those types of things help keep it fun."
Fun. And fast.
For the Warriors, Riley Geldean (19:44) and Molly Maksin (19:44) crossed the line within fractions of a second of each other and placed eighth and ninth to lead the way for the girls. The ladies brought back nearly everyone from last year's ninth-place finish at state and on Saturday they placed all five scoring runners inside the top-32 finishers.
Before the run, the girls took part in a "Secret Sisters" gift exchange, where each girl on the team gave and received a gift and an inspirational letter from a teammate.
Maksin said Saturday's gift exchange theme was all about nature. She was thrilled to receive granola and a cool-looking rock.
"It's important for us to be close as a team," Maksin said. "We are all really close and we're all friends."
The boys' team has that same vibe. While the Warriors lost two of its three top runners from last year's runner-up finish at state, they return the other five, which includes Cooper Brown, who was fourth (16:25) on Saturday.
Asked about future goals, Brown said he believes the boys can still compete for a state title.
"We still have a pretty good shot at least competing for the title," Brown said. "Race day is always a toss-up because unforeseen events can always happen. But I think if we have a good race that day we can definitely take the win."
Brown leads a core of four varsity seniors — three that have been running cross country together since freshman year as well as Torey Puckett, the middle-distance track runner who was convinced to join the XC team last year. On Saturday, the foursome helped Centaurus score five inside the top 20.
Seniors Puckett took seventh (16:34), Kyle Piper was 11th (16:42) Henry Bowman was 20th (17:06). Sophomore James Overberg was 13th (16:51).
"It's just a good group to be around," Bowman said. "We all care about each other and we are all looking for each other to succeed."
The invitation had more than 30 teams in attendance and it included a community 5K. Swanker kicked off the high school races with a strong victory for the Eagles, who took third in the girls' race. Swanker is the only returning state member from Broomfield's runner-up finish from last year.
"I've just been trying to push it and keep the times up from last year," Swanker said.
Many of the area's teams will now turn their attentions to the St. Vrain Invitational as well as Liberty Bell's PR-haven course next weekend.
Brent W. New: email@example.com, tweet @brentwnew
Centaurus Cross Country Invitational
At Waneka Lake Park
Team scores — Dakota Ridge 38, Centaurus 55, Legend 103, Monarch 120, Niwot 221, Arvada West 232, Holy Family 246, Faith Christian 270, Legend 278, Broomfield 289.
Top 10 individuals — 1. Austin Vancil, Dakota Ridge, 15:51; 2. Connor Ohlson, Dakota Ridge, 16:00; 3. Ryan Johnson, Legend, 16:20; 4. Cooper Brown, Centaurus, 16:25; 5. Nolan Getchell, Legend, 16:27; 6. Ryan Montera, Legacy, 16:32; 7. Torey Puckett, Centaurus, 16:34; 8. Benjamin Piegat, Dakota Ridge, 16:35; 9. Will Daley, Denver East, 16:35; 10. Avery Conaghan, Monarch, 16:40.
Team scores — Centaurus 76, Monarch 105, Broomfield 124, Denver East 183, Legacy 190, Standley Lake 201, Arvada West 202, Roosevelt 207, Legend 233, Dakota Ridge 277.
Top 10 individuals — 1. Sydney Swanker, Broomfield, 19:14; 2. Kiran Green, Brighton, 19:21; 3. Madi Kenyon, Roosevelt, 19:25; 4. Taylor James, Niwot, 19:31; 5. Sophia Abernethy, Standley Lake, 19:36; 6. Claire Rusovick, Mountain Range, 19:41; 7. Abby Jones, Legacy 19:42; 8. Riley Geldean, Centaurus, 19:44; 9. Molly Maksin, Centaurus, 19:44; 10. Emily Condon, Erie, 19:46.