State cross country: Lafayette’s Centaurus, Peak to Peak boys claim team titles

  • Isaiah J. Downing / For

    Centaurus seniors Torey Puckett, far left, and Cooper Brown, center, celebrate with teammates after the Class 4A boys championship race in October in Colorado Springs. Centaurus captured the 4A boys team title.

  • Isaiah J. Downing / For

    Centaurus's Cooper Brown finished fifth in Saturday's Class 4A state cross country race at the Norris Penrose Event Center, helping the Warriors claim the 4A team title for their first in the sport since 2011.

  • Isaiah J. Downing / For

    Peak to Peak junior William Ledden, right, helped guide the Peak to Peak boys team to their first Class 3A cross country state team title in October.



COLORADO SPRINGS — Peak to Peak’s William Ledden was beside himself early Saturday morning.

While standing in an area of the Norris Penrose Event Center only reserved for the state’s top cross country racers, he spent a few minutes catching his breath and then felt a few drips of liquid other than sweat drip down his face.

The perfect race rarely happens at the state cross country meet, but Ledden felt he was as good as he could be in finishing in third place in the Class 3A portion of the event.

For the most part, the tears may have been about the junior’s spectacular finish. But the day belonged to the team.

For Centaurus’ Cooper Brown, the feeling was much the same. The Warriors had gathered expectations all year long, and in a stacked Class 4A race that featured Niwot and Palmer Ridge among others, it wasn’t rankings that earned them a state title. It was being the best, as a group, on the right day.

For both schools from Lafayette, adding space for a new trophy is now the priority.

The Pumas were expected to do well prior to the season, and they realized their goals by winning their first boys team title, edging Salida by just four points with Justin Hager, Ethan Monarski, Ryan Kuykendall and Cole Beasley pushing them past the Spartans.

“We are so proud of our teamwork today,” Peak to Peak head coach Kim McConnell said after they accepted their trophy. “It was dicey today, because Salida was awesome and we’ve battled them for years in boys and girls. But yeah, you’re just super relieved when it turned out we got it.

“It’s tough in these championship races, it really is, but they did what they had to do. It was great.”

Peak to Peak returned all seven state-qualifying runners from last year’s third place team, and coming into Saturday’s finals was not intimidating because of it. They knew the course, they knew each other and they had good conditions in which to execute.

Ledden worked some magic, vaulting from 17th last year to third place this year, shaving 25 seconds off him individual time to finish in 16 minutes 23 seconds. The Classical Academy’s Mason Norman made it a one-person race for first — he finished in 15:33 for a classification record — but Ledden was happy with how he attacked.

“It was everything I could have hoped for in my race, and I am so happy with it,” Ledden said. “Last year, I felt off from the gun and I like really faded going into the (one-kilometer)-to-go. This year, I went out conservative after Mason blew us away — that was so fun to watch until I realized that I was racing against him. But I felt good, took it easy up the hill and maxed out power at the top and grind out that last section to go from seventh to third.”

While last year’s scoring pack all finished within 39 seconds of each other, this year’s group of five were a little more spread out. However, they all were simply better.

Hager finished in 16:56, while Monarski went 16:58. Both Kuykendall’s 17:20 was similar to last year, but Beasley improved his time by nearly a full minute to weigh big in the win. Peak to Peak finished with 76 points.

“It feels good to be up there as a team, and it really all started this summer at our camp when we really saw the possibility of being state champs,” Hager said. “We worked hard and came out here today, didn’t want to be arrogant but we put it all out there as a team. We worked on team the whole year.”

We knew coming in that we had a good chance after last year’s surprise third, and all summer we just came into every practice with the idea that we were going to win,” Ledden said. “It’s something truly special to be part of.”

Centaurus had that special feeling the past month as it honed in on its first title in the sport since 2011. The Warriors had won three straight races, including beating Niwot in regionals, and coming off a second place 2017 state finish the mindset was aggressive in nature when they hit the starting line.

Brown figured the depth of the team would prevail and indeed it did as a scoring pack time of 50 seconds was the best of the top three teams. Brown finished fifth overall with a time of 16:11, but Torey Puckett gave CHS a second top-10 runner that proved pivotal in edging the rest of the field. The finishes for Kyle Piper (16:42), Henry Bowman (16:53) and James Overberg (17:01) set the Warriors up for a dominating finish, as CHS had 63 points and Palmer Ridge tallied 99 for seconds place.

Puckett, who just started racing cross country last year, finished in 16:32.

“Coming into the race, we had won three races in a row and just knew we had it if we ran to the best of our abilities,” Brown said. “It was a tough race, but just training up to the meet, we knew we had to put a couple of guys in the top-10 to combat some other team’s top runners. But overall with our top-five, I’m just super-proud.

“Through the season, we tried not to focus on the rankings … it all depended on how we came out today and presented ourselves.”

Adam Dunivan: or