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CLIFF GRASSMICK
Kaitlyn Benner, left, and Claire Green, both of Monarch High, celebrate their 5A team title Saturday.

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AURORA — Sitting in the mud behind the awards stage on Saturday at the state cross country meet, Monarch senior Kirk Webb’s body was still too exhausted for him to fully enjoy his Class 5A title.

“I definitely ran a state championship race, and right now it doesn’t feel good to be honest,” Webb said.

But for a guy who’s been knocking on first place’s door for the past two springs in track, victory tasted sweet nonetheless.

Webb ran to the crown in 16 minutes, 3.84 seconds on the 3.1-mile course to beat Fort Collins’ Tait Rutherford by four seconds and help make Saturday a championship day for the Coyotes.

A couple of hours earlier, the MHS girls capped off a team title in dominating fashion, knocking off defending state champ Fort Collins by 70 points. Monarch won with 107. Fort Collins had 177, and Mountain Vista was third with 243.

Sophomores Claire Green (fifth) and Kaitlyn Benner (10th) led the way as the Coyotes placed their top four runners in the top 20.

“It’s probably the most amazing feeling in the world,” said Green, who ran a time of 19:03.70. “Our team has been working for this since July, and it’s just awesome to see us come out here and win it.”

The titles were the first for MHS cross country, and the team title marked the third overall for the school.

“We really wanted to (win the title) last year, but because of certain things we weren’t able to,” Benner said. “So it feels great to come back and win it.”

Green stayed near the front of the pack all race long, as did many of her teammates.

Ashley Litoff placed 14th and Taylor Floming took 20th, while Anna Hogan rounded out the team scoring in 58th. Alyssa Reese placed 79th, and Karina Mann was 93rd.

Not one of the Monarch runners is a senior, meaning the Coyotes could be atop the podium to stay. Floming, a junior, is the only upperclassman in the bunch.

MHS coach Kent Rieder said his team went out a bit too fast the first mile but managed to recover on a tough, hilly course that was muddy in multiple areas.

“This course suits us really well, and we were able to gut it out,” Rieder said. “I told our girls all season that if they just keep running the way they’re running that they’d win the state meet.”

Webb’s dreams of a title appeared to be dashed late in the boys race as favorite Danny Carney of Dakota Ridge held about a 15-second lead by Webb’s estimation. But Carney, who would later be taken to the hospital, collapsed with about 300 meters to go and finished 44th.

“He’s such a smart runner,” Webb said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing, so my goal was just to stay with him and see if I had a kick left at the end to take him. I just caught a huge break and that’s the reason I won.”

Webb finished 19th at state as a sophomore and 22nd last year. He’s got two third-place finishes in the 800-meter run in track and a fourth and a fifth in the 1,600 to his name.

“You train all year for this race,” Webb said. “None of the other races are important. This is all that matters, and nothing is better than coming out here and performing when it matters most.”

The Monarch boys took third as a team with 173 points behind Fort Collins (95) and Mountain Vista (107). Michael Reese notched a top-10 finish of his own by placing ninth, while Collin Lowe was 31st.

Monarch’s fourth runner, sophomore Parker Sitton (59th), suffered from extreme dehydration and had to also be taken to the hospital. But Rieder said he was released later in the evening and would be okay.

FHS boys finish 4th

Monarch stole the day in 5A with a team title by its girls team and an individual boys crown by Kirk Webb. But the Fairview boys turned in a solid effort as well with a fourth-place team finish.

Junior Kyle Lund finished 24th and Bridger Tomlin was 25th to pace FHS.

On the girls side, Boulder finished eighth behind senior Sam Lewis’ sixth-place effort. Fairview was one spot behind the rival Panthers in ninth, and boasted a top-10 finisher of its own in sophomore Isabelle Kennedy.


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