COLORADO SPRINGS — Flashback to one year ago at the Norris-Penrose Event Center and Emma Gee was walking out of the stadium knowing that she had something left to prove.
The Legacy senior devoted her spring and summer to making the necessary improvements that would assure she didn’t feel the same way in 2014.
On Saturday, Gee returned to the Class 5A podium after a one-year hiatus, finishing the difficult course — made even tougher by the brutally warm temperatures — in a sixth-place time of 19 minutes, 45.8 seconds.
“It was a good race,” said Gee, who finished 50 seconds behind race winner Lauren Gregory of Fort Collins. “I had a way better set-up plan that I actually followed through with cause I’m so familiar with the course.
“But the hill still kicked my butt.”
Gee, who finished second as a sophomore, experienced the same challenges as every other runner with sweltering late October heat.
“You are already hot to begin with, but everyone running in the same conditions,” she said.
Last year’s 11th-place finish didn’t sit well with the uber-competitive Gee, whose time on Saturday was 46 seconds slower than her sophomore campaign.
“It’s been the cause of a lot of stress,” she said. “So it’s nice to be done with it, even if I didn’t beat my previous performances, but I’m still happy.”
Said Lightning coach DJ Hummel: “I’m very happy with the outcome. Milesplit had her seeded 22nd and I think she raced smart today and was not too ambitious in the beginning and that is what helped her just hold her position. The first mile was a 6:04, which is pretty slow for that group of girls, and let your energy store up and save something for the hill, save something going up the hill and then you race starts when you get to the top of the hill.”
Gee was 13th when she reached the course’s biggest obstacle and was able to climb seven spots by the time she crossed the finish line in the rodeo stadium.
It also helped to have the support of her full team on hand. The Lightning finished 14th as a team, getting quality finishes from Abby Cohen (56th) and freshman Cheney Singer (94th).
“I’m proud of the whole team,” Hummel said. “I broke down their pre-state times and their course PR’s, because normal PR’s don’t matter on this course (because of the difficulty), and all of them improved on their pre-state time.
“So they have gotten faster from the beginning of the season to the end, which makes me a proud coach.”
Follow Jon on Twitter: twitter.com/JonEYunt