BOULDER — The backdrop on Saturday morning was nothing short of pristine at Viele Lake Park. Cloudless skies and the sun-kissed Boulder Flatirons soaking up the last day of summer made for a great morning at the Pat Patten Invite.
With all Mother Nature had to offer, the Niwot girls cross country team sprinkled in their own form of perfection, too. Against a mix of teams from different classifications and several standout individuals, the Cougars achieved a unique feat in finishing in first place as a team as all five scoring runners occupied the race's top five positions.
It was a perfect score of 15 and another notch in the belt for a nationally-ranked group.
Maggie Smith and Samree Dishon led the way, but Taylor James, Eva Klingbeil and Joelle McDonald all crossed within 29 seconds of each other and in front of everyone else, a cause for celebration ahead of next Friday's Desert Twilight meet in Arizona in which they will also compete.
"It was just great because we ran very tactical, fed off each other and worked together the whole time," said Smith, who crossed the line along with Dishon in 19 minutes, 10 seconds on Saturday. "That's really what made it happen for us.
"We've been crushing workouts and at this point in the season we're starting to see it come through. We're still humble about everything, because we're about the work and the teammates. But we're also starting to see just how good we can be."
Having last competed at the RE-1J District Invite on September 12 — they didn't ramp up their pace at that one, truly — the Cougars were hungry for a chance to flex their muscles once again. While the Pat Patten didn't draw Broomfield or Mountain Vista as it has in the past, 5A's Fossil Ridge, Monarch, Fairview and host Boulder along with 4A's Centaurus still provided plenty of strong foes.
But it became evident pretty early that Niwot, ranked 11th in the MileSplit MS50 national team rankings, was going to seize control in the race, which has its share of pavement running and field running.
As Niwot looped back around where the start line was the first time, all five girls were already out in front. Their spread only increased from there.
After they had crossed the finish line Dishon, Smith and James were in good position to watch a larger pack of girls head into the downhill finish, cheering on Klingbeil and McDonald to keep up their final kicks.
"It was really awesome for us all, and me and Maggie ran the race we've wanted to all season just being able to push through together," Dishon said. "The hills on the course wake you up. It helps to have someone you know right there helping you out, basically stride by stride, hand movement the same, everything like that just makes you go faster."
It was a good race for local teams. Centaurus' Katie Hooten and Molly Maksin finished eighth and 10th, respectively, to help the Warriors place third with 102 points. Monarch's Anna Wexler placed 11th and the Coyotes were fourth overall. Lyons's Katie Fankhouser and Quin Gregg once again finished top-15 at a big meet. Finally, for Fairview, Marlena Preigh rounded out the 15 best times as she came in at 19:55.
The Desert Twilight meet is one of the nation's most well-known autumn races, and both Smith and Dishon felt the Pat Patten result to be a perfect primer for that event.
"We'll be getting after it next Friday," Smith said.
"Hopefully we do really well and possibly win it," Dishon added.
Pat Patten Invite
At Viele Lake
Team scores — Niwot 15, Fossil Ridge 88, Centaurus 102, Monarch 120, Fairview 134, Rock Canyon 186, Denver North 201, Boulder 213, Standley Lake 221, Lyons 238, George Washington 295, Erie 308, Spain Park (Alabama) 371, Denver East 403, Smoky Hill 445, Shining Mountain 449, Riverdale Ridge 511.
Top 20 individuals — 1. Maggie Smith, Niwot, 19:10; 2. Samrawit Dishon, Niwot, 19:10; 3. Taylor James, Niwot, 19:24; 4. Eva Klingbeil, Niwot, 19:38; 5. Joelle McDonald, Niwot, 19:39; 6. Lena Fogarty, Fossil Ridge, 19:41; 7. Hope James, Rock Canyon, 19:48; 8. Katie Hooten, Centaurus, 19:49; 9. Sophia Abernethy, Standley Lake, 19:50; 10. Molly Maksin, Centaurus, 19:50; 11. Anna Wexler, Monarch, 19:52; 12. Katie Fankhouser, Lyons, 19:53; 13. Quin Gregg, Lyons, 19:54; 14. Caitlin Hunt, Fossil Ridge, 19:55; 15. Marlena Preigh, Fairview, 19:55; 16. Madelyn MacLaughlin, Monarch, 19:57; 17. Olivia Dickinson, Fossil Ridge, 20:03; 18. Ellie Smith, Fairview, 20:03; 19. Julia Mainland, Monarch, 20:07; 20. Kinsey Hall, Fairview, 20:09.