BOULDER — The Centaurus boys cross country team has kept a remarkably light schedule this season in hopes that the trajectory continues to skyrocket for regionals and the Class 4A state meet in late October.
But when it came to Saturday's Pat Patten Invite in Boulder, and with the chance to run right up against a full crew from Northern League and regional foe Niwot, the Warriors were ready to take care of business.
Centaurus captured team honors at the meet around Viele Lake Park on a beautiful morning, placing all five scorers within the top 16 runners for a score of 54 points to edge Niwot's 72.
The Cougars' Cruz Culpepper knocked another race out of the park with a first place individual finish — he finished in 15 minutes, 53 seconds — and Ares Reading placed second in 16:05 for NHS, as well. But Cooper Brown placed third and four other Warriors came in with sub-17 minute times to give CHS the team trophy.
"Going into the race we knew that Niwot was going to be here, and Niwot is probably our toughest competition for state this year. We knew we wanted to go out, look for their jerseys and pass as many of them as we could," said Brown, who finished in 16:16. "The hill plays a big part in this race, so it's all about working up that and using it to our advantage. You look toward your training through the race, and when you are feeling rough, go back to that training and remember what you're capable of.
"We wanted to put up some good numbers."
Two weeks removed from the Liberty Bell Invite, both Centaurus and Niwot were well-rested for the Patten course, which includes pavement, grass, dirt and a climb or two.
The times for Torey Puckett (16:36, 10th place), James Overberg (16:38, 11th), Kyle Piper (16:42, 14th) and Henry Bowman (16:54, 16th) obviously didn't rival that of the flatter Liberty Bell, but the group showed the ability to did deep in a race that included local 5A stalwarts Fairview, Boulder and Monarch.
Culpepper and Reading were not going to be caught on this day — they often haven't been this season — but for Brown it was a matter of fending off Rock Canyon's Derek Fearon, Lyons's Isaac Roberts and Boulder's Carson Williams. Those three runners all finished within six seconds of the Warriors senior.
"It's a good simulation for what state is because state is a super-hilly course and this is one of the few we race that has a significant hill in it," Brown said. "With the concrete and the grass, this just is a really nice mix."
Culpepper's trajectory is outstanding right now, and another race win was exactly what he was looking for ahead of the prestigious Desert Twilight Invite in Arizona on Friday.
His time of 15:53 was 40 seconds faster than last year at the same meet, and he was fully rested having not raced since the Liberty Bell (Niwot did compete in the RE-1J District Meet on September 12). Side by side with Reading for almost the entire course, Culpepper took things up a notch in the final stretch along Knox Drive and then around the bend to the downhill finish.
"My goal for the rest of the season is to win every race, and pretty much every one of them, I've not been going out hard but rather just kind of waiting and then kicking it in at the end," Culpepper said. "I felt really comfortable the whole race, so it allowed me to be able to kick.
"I really like flat and fast, but it's always good to get the actual cross training in. With Desert coming up, it was nice to have this one to get into race mode."
Fairview's boys team finished third with just 24 seconds separating their first scorer from their fifth. Boulder's fourth place team finish was buoyed by Williams (6th), Lukas Haug (16:33, 9th) and Orion Pipersky (16:58, 19th).
Pat Patten Invite
At Viele Lake
Team scores — Centaurus 54, Niwot 72, Fairview 113, Boulder 118, Rock Canyon 123, Smoky Hill 161, Monarch 165, Fossil Ridge 189, Erie 213, Lyons 242, Standley Lake 322, Spain Park (Alabama) 384, George Washington 386, Denver East 414, Frederick 441, Riverdale Ridge 467.
Top 20 individuals — 1. Cruz Culpepper, Niwot, 15:53; 2. Ares Reading, Niwot, 16:05; 3. Cooper Brown, Centaurus, 16:16; 4. Derek Fearon, Rock Canyon, 16:16; 5. Isaac Roberts, Lyons, 16:20; 6. Carson Williams, Boulder, 16:22; 7. Jamison Cartwright, Erie, 16:29; 8. Wesley Beckham, Rock Canyon, 16:32; 9. Lukas Haug, Boulder, 16:33; 10. Torey Puckett, Centaurus, 16:36; 11. James Overberg, Centaurus, 16:38; 12. Dalton Seymour, Smoky Hill, 16:38; 13. Benjamin Bi, Niwot, 16:40; 14. Kyle Piper, Centaurus, 16:42; 15. Avery Canaghan, Monarch, 16:53; 16. Henry Bowman, Centaurus, 16:54; 17. John Parker, Fairview, 16:54; 18. Henry Murphy, Fairview, 16:57; 19. Orion Pipersky, Boulder, 16:58; 20. Jacob Warner, Spain Park, 16:59.