David R. Jennings / Staff Photographer
David R. Jennings / Staff Photographer
COLORADO SPRINGS – Boulder’s Claudia Burgess and Fairview’s Maya Browning have gotten used to being within a whisper’s distance from each other over the past two years, and that played out again Saturday as the pair of local runners finished fifth and seventh, respectively, in 5A girls.
It wasn’t the race either of them necessarily wanted after finishing second and third last year.
“I was really excited to race,” Burgess said. “This race I didn’t feel a lot of pressure because the competition was definitely higher and I was just seeing where I could still place. I’m excited for what the next two years can bring, though.”
“The competition is just so good, and I guess it just comes down to not being prepared enough,” Browning said. “You have to work hard to be even near the top with runners this good. I tried to give my all at the end, but I should have started kicking sooner.”
While the pair of runners finished high once again, the Knights and Panthers also fared similar to last year overall. On the strength of a 12th-place finish from Isabella Bowland and a 25th place from Victoria Cassarubias, Fairview moved up two placed from fifth to third — just four points behind Cherry Creek and 12 behind champion Broomfield.
Boulder, another super-young team, had two sophomores and two freshmen lead their eighth-place effort. Second-year harrier Lauren Neugeboren finished 67th.
Panther boys pack together
The Boulder boys have had some outstanding pack times this year, and on Saturday that netted the Panthers a fourth place finish. Junior Gabe Hornung finished 15th overall, but BHS had a pack time of just 45 seconds with Sean Reidel, Luke Zacharias and Sam Primozich all finishing within 2.2 seconds of each other, too.
The time between the five scorers actually bested second-place Fort Collins (46.7 seconds) and third-place Arapahoe (1 minute, 21 seconds).
New course still a hit
When the state meet course at Norris Penrose Events Center was changed to make it flatter and safer, the early reviews were positive and that didn’t change after the state meet concluded on Saturday.
The biggest change was the removal of “Big Willis,” an immense hill that defined the previous state meet track. This year’s course proved to be less strenuous and, in many cases, faster. But the level on competition was left largely unaffected.
“All the course did was eliminated a big hill,” Niwot head coach Timothy Flamer said. “I don’t think it changed the concept of getting out here, running as hard as you can and being competitive. In my opinion, it was a minor change.”
Lone Maverick makes her mark
The rest of the Mead High team may not have qualified for the Class 4A cross country state meet, but nearly all the Mavericks were at Norris Penrose Events Center on Saturday to cheer on their lone entrant.
That simple show of support was all little sophomore Sophia Maeda needed to exceed her own expectations and impress her Mavericks teammates with a 19th-place finish.
“My team didn’t make it this year so I was running for them,” Maeda said. “My dad is also getting a liver transplant in three days so I was also running for him and my family.”
In the second mile, Maeda started to get comfortable and felt she could make a push. That’s when she made her move and finished in 20 minutes, 0.7 seconds.
“The represents the team well and we’re super proud of her,” Mavericks assistant coach Steve Parson said. “She ran exactly the race we wanted her to run and placed way higher then we even projected. She ran a really smart race.
“She was 29th at the two-mile mark, so she killed it that last mile. She picked off 10 girls in one mile, so that was perfect.”
Last year, the Mavericks did qualify as a team. Running with her teammates then, Maeda placed 71st as a freshman. Running for her teammates this year, she improved her finish by 52 places.
“It was rough,” Maeda said. “But it was way better than last year. My coach and I set our goal in the top 30 so we’re pretty happy.”