Cross country: Peak to Peak’s Quinn McConnell, Niwot’s Cruz Culpepper go big at Desert Twilight

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Peak to Peak's Quinn MConnell won the girls' sweepstakes race at the Nike Desert Twilight Festival on Friday night.

  • Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer

    Niwot's Cruz Culpepper ran the second-fastest time in high school cross country this season at Nike Desert Twilight Festival.



Peak to Peak’s Quinn McConnell began her race to the sound of fireworks, and not long after, crossed the finish line victoriously with a top-10 time in the nation.

McConnell won the girls’ sweepstakes race at the Nike Desert Twilight Festival on Friday night in 17 minutes and .10 seconds, the nation’s eighth-best time for a high school girl this season.

On the backdrop of the night sky in Casa Grande, Ariz., and in the middle of a festive atmosphere at one of the nation’s premiere cross country meets, the reigning 3A state champion beat Chaparral’s Abi Archer by just over a second and led her two-time defending champion team to a third-place finish.

Asked where it ranked among the multiple victories over her career, McConnell said: “It’s pretty high up there for sure. Just because of the caliber of teams there were and the time I ended up running was a big PR for me.”

After the run, the touted senior went on her first of five recruiting trips to decide where she’ll run and study in college.

In the boys’ sweepstakes race, Niwot’s Cruz Culpepper (14:43.6) and Ares Reading (14:52.9) both plunged under the 15-minute mark to finish second and sixth. Culpepper’s time was good for second in the country this season while Reading’s was the eighth-fastest time.

“We have been training about a 14:55 pace for Ares and a 14:45 for Cruz, and that’s exactly what they ran,” Niwot coach Kelly Christensen said. “They were dialed in, so that was good.”

Culpepper finished behind only Valor Christian’s Cole Sprout, who won with the nation’s fastest time of 14:32.90. The Cougars junior said he feels good about his current standing.

“It gives me a lot of confidence because I haven’t really run an amazing cross time until now,” Culpepper said. “Also, I was very comfortable during the race. I wasn’t going into the well, so I felt really good about it.”

The Cougars’ boys’ team finished one point behind El Paso Eastwood (Texas) for the win. The girls’ team also finished second.

Silver Creek won the small schools’ race on the strength of Alyssa Morgan’s (19:49) fourth-place finish. Dawson’s Lucca Fulkerson finished second in that race (19:01.50).

Brent W. New: , and @brentwnew