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COLORADO SPRINGS — Joe Raff was running at the state meet for the first time in his high school career.

On Saturday morning at the Norris-Penrose Event Center, the Jefferson Academy senior had a much greater appreciation for the beast of a course he had heard so much about.

“This course is tough and it takes everything out of you just to finish,” he said.

Raff earned a top-30 finish in Class 3A, crossing the line in 18 minutes, 33.9 seconds as the much-improved Jaguars’ top finisher.

“You start that race and you are as high as a kite,” said Raff, who finished 1 minute, 33 seconds behind race winner Ben Butler of SkyView Academy. “You hit that hill and you are done.”

Expectations were high for Jefferson Academy coming into the race. The Jags captured the prestigious St. Vrain Invitational earlier in the season and by the time the final coaches rankings came out on MileSplit, coach Ben Hershelman’s team stood at a respectable No. 5.

But the heat and the difficulty of the course took their toll on JA, which ultimately finished 11th in the 3A team standings. After Raff, sophomore Christian Van Cleave was 53rd, junior Josiah Raso-Valdez was 62nd, freshman Ryan Lehmuth was 78th and sophomore Nathan Moore was 100th.

“Our team expectations were really just to do the best we could,” Raff said. “Some guys had a tough day and others had a pretty good day, but it doesn’t really matter as long as they fought and did their best.”

On the girls side in 3A, Jefferson Academy junior Mariah Archuleta just missed a top-20 finish, crossing in 22:17.2 to capture 21st.

Her effort, along with that of senior Fiona Cavanaugh (65th), Samantha Holland (79th) and Jenny Hesser (97th) helped the Jags to a 12th-place team finish.

“There was a lot of dust out there and my throat is in a lot of pain,” said Archuleta of the unseasonably warm and dry conditions on Saturday.

It was a change from a season ago for Archuleta, who was her school’s sole representative last season when she finished 44th despite running the race seven seconds faster than she did on Saturday.

“It was awesome having them all here, and everyone did an amazing job,” Archuleta said.

In Class 4A on the boys side, Holy Family’s Ryan Wells finished 77th in 18:44.

The Tigers girls sent an entire team and it was freshman Isabelle Hren that led the pack with a 42nd-place finish in 21:38.8.

Holy Family, which finished 21st overall, also got scoring runs from junior Olivia Bartoletti (113th), freshman Krista Napierkowski (121st), junior Amanda Medearis (125th) and junior Eva Napierkowski (154th).

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