AURORA — High expectations led Elise Cranny to a second-place finish on Saturday at the Class 4A girls cross county state meet.
Those same expectations led The Niwot sophomore to believe she could have been better.
Cranny ran the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds course in 18 minutes, 58.13 seconds. Sydney Scott of Denver South won with a time of 18:52.08.
Cranny posted the best finish in Niwot history. She’s the first Cougars girl to ever finish the state meet in the top five. No Niwot runner, either on the boys side or girls side, has won a state title in cross country.
Still, at the end, Cranny couldn’t help but think of what could have been.
“(The state title) is something I really wanted and I’ve been working for it all season, so it’s a little bit frustrating,” Cranny said.
After finishing 10th at state as a freshman in 2010, Cranny knew she could improve this year. In fact, with just over a mile to run, she had the lead.
“I pulled ahead and I thought I was going to get it,” she said. “But Sydney came back strong. My legs didn’t move as fast as I thought. She made the stronger move.”
Scott passed Cranny going up a hill in that last mile. Cranny then edged Thompson Valley’s Karina Ernst at the end.
“I just gave it everything I had up the hill and then tried to keep Karina off at the finish,” she said.
Running on a difficult course, Cranny knew she would have to battle.
“After I started, I just knew it wasn’t going to be my greatest day, but it was still a good day,” she said.
Niwot coach Doug Duffy was thrilled. The Cougars have often enjoyed great team success at state, but to have an individual reach this level was awesome to see.
“Second place is pretty darn good,” he said. “I’m proud of her training. She did everything right this year. She’s been super coachable and, you know, sometimes you finish second.
“She will come back and be hungry and wanting to battle for a state championship the next couple of years.”
Indeed, Cranny said that will be the goal in 2012.
“It definitely gives me confidence and shows me how close I was,” she said. “I’ll just have to work even harder next season.”
As a team, Niwot was seventh. Senior Kaiti Shepherd finished 41st, and senior Madeline Jalbert finished 58th.
“Our team as a whole did really well,” Cranny said. “We all just gave our effort, and I gave as much as I could.”
TIMMS PLEASED, HARRIS NOT: In the Class 4A boys race, Skyline’s Connor Timms finished strong to cross the line in eighth place, barely ahead of Niwot’s Nick Harris, who was ninth.
“I’m so pumped I beat Nick Harris,” said Timms, who set a personal record with a time of 16:53.37. “Ever since I started running last year, that’s the guy to beat, and I finally beat him my last race against him.”
Harris, meanwhile, had his eye on challenging for the championship. Moffat County’s Alfredo Lebron won (16:24.87), while Harris finishing about 32 seconds later (16:56.82).
“I feel like I went out in a good position,” the senior said. “I was with the leaders and I was hoping for a top three, if not the win. The leaders just kind of opened up a gap and I wasn’t really able to close the gap.”
Still, Harris left with his first top-10 state medal.
“That’s huge; that’s great,” he said.
Skyline finished ninth as a team, while Niwot was 13th.
NOTES: In the Class 3A girls race, Mead’s Morgan Lu finished 15th (20:32.52). The sophomore jumped 21 places from last year and sliced about 65 seconds off her 2010 state time. … In 4A girls, Erie’s Kenzie Atkins finished 29th, with a time of 20:27.43. She cut 75 seconds off her state time from a year ago and dramatically improved from her 91st-place finish in 2010. As a team, Erie was 18th. … Skyline’s Braden Richards was 33rd in the 4A boys race and his freshman sister, Sydney, was 92nd in the 4A girls race.
Brian Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.