After week of enduring single digits, conditions in Portland, Ore. must have seemed balmy to the Monarch girls cross country team Saturday.
The Coyotes certainly weren’t complaining about temperatures in the high-20s, low-30s range after finishing registering perhaps their crowning achievement as a program.
The Coyotes finished fifth in the Nike Cross Nationals at Portland Meadows, their highest ever national finish. Monarch also qualified for the event in 2010, but finished 15th. The Coyotes have captured the past three Class 5A state team titles, but the stakes — and competition — were raised in Portland.
“We’ve been ranked in the top 10 most of the year, and so as far as expectations we figured we’d better get a top 10 finish,” Monarch coach Kent Rieder said. “We went through the southwest region and finished third, which was disappointing, but that was by far the toughest region. There are nine regions in the country, and three of the top 16 teams were in our region.
“Three of the top 10 individuals (at nationals) were from Colorado. It’s by far one of toughest states. Having that type of competition I think toughened them up for this kind of race.”
Senior Kaitlyn Benner finished 61st to pace the Coyotes, but it counted as 24th-place for the purposes of team scores. Individual runners who qualified without their team don’t factor into team scores.
Freshman Holy Bent (30th for purposes of team scores) was second, followed by senior Claire Greene (46th), freshman Audrey Lookner (50th) and junior Karina Mann (61st).
Junior Elissa Mann (73rd) and senior Ashley Litoff (101st) also competed for the Coyotes. Litoff paced Monarch at this season’s state meet with a fifth-place finish at Norris-Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs.
In addition, Niwot’s Elise Cranny finished second overall. One of the finest distance runners the state has ever produced and one of the favorites in the event, Cranny finished in a what would have been a course-record 16:53.8.
The two-time 4A champ trailed only winner Alexa Efraimson, a junior from Camas High School in Washington. Efraimson finished in 16:50.1.
“We didn’t run an overall great race, but we ran really, really well,” Rieder said. “At this race, you have the top 22 teams in the country. If you think of the thousands of cross country teams across the country, just to get here is a hard thing to do. To get fifth is an incredible achievement.”
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