Boulder Daily Camera
LAFAYETTE — Every year the Centaurus cross country team hosts their home invitational at Waneka Lake, they come with a unique style.
Their tops are the traditional school tops, but the team adds unique and colorful shorts to run in for the race. Prints, colors and more make it a creative look, and it has become a tradition for the program each year.
“We like to have fun at this meet,” Centaurus’ Maggie McCleskey said.
Not only did the team have fun and stand out with their uniforms at the race, but they put on a show with runners cracking the top five in both the boys and girls races to help them win both varsity divisions on Saturday.
McCleskey led a trio of Centaurus girls across the finish line and took fourth place with a time of 19 minutes, 50 seconds. Right behind her was Riley Geldean with her fifth-place time of 19:54. The pack was rounded out with Katie Hooten coming in sixth at 19:56.
The pack at the front of the race played a critical role for the Centaurus girls to win the meet.
“The goal is to stay together,” McCleskey said. “Coach always tells us to stay together as a group. That makes everybody go faster, not just one (runner).”
For the boys, they are looking to close the gap with their pack times with a new crop of runners. Having graduated their top runners that helped them win a state title a year ago, this year’s team has been led by junior James Overberg, who was coming off his win at the Wyoming Cross Country Invitational in Cheyenne last week.
Also donning the colorful shorts with his uniform, he jumped towards the front of the pack at the beginning and tried to maintain his spot for the entire race. A couple of runners would pass in the second half of the race, but he managed to hold down fourth place with a time of 16:47.
“I didn’t expect to get all the way out in front (early), but I just went with it,” Overberg said. “I wanted to go a comfortable pace to stay an arm’s length away from the top guy. He passed me late, and from that point I just focused on keeping up with the jersey in front of me and not let anyone else pass me.”
Ben Handwerker, John McGill, Kyle Berg and Kailer Smith formed their own pack that followed Overberg and all four runners finished in the top 20 of the race. While the pack time was still around two minutes in gap, Overberg feels the younger athletes stepping in will soon close that gap and give their team another shot at qualifying for state.
“It’s really about team building,” Overberg said. “We have such a tight bond that pushes us to do the best we can in practice. At meets, we’re really holding each other accountable.”
Boulder earns two medal finishers
Saturday was the first full-length race for the Boulder Panthers this season. Having last ran in a two-mile race on Aug. 23, the team is still working to get to the pace needed for the 3.1 miles they will run consistently moving forward.
Despite that, the Panthers had a pair of runners finish in the top three to give them a strong start to the cross country season.
Stella Vieth was the top local runner in the girls race with her time of 19:30 1to come in third place.
“I feel good about it,” Vieth said. “I tried to stick with (the other top runners) at the beginning, but I felt good. It was a good foundation for the season and it was fun. I think we’re looking good, and everyone did well. It’s a good start.”
Lukas Haug ran a similar race for the boys, jumping out towards the front and staying in the front pack to cross the finish line in 16:41 for third place.
“It was a good start for sure,” Haug said. “I’m still stuck on a two-mile pace still, so it was a little hard. But it felt pretty good today.”
As Boulder gets closer to the pace for a traditional cross country race, they believe they will continue to flourish and can have more top finishes on the season.
“Our coach trains us to get exponentially better throughout the season,” Haug said. “I for sure feel like myself and the team have potential to do well.”
The top local runner in the boys race was Broomfield’s James Thomas. He found himself in a race with Conifer’s Zack Gacnik and stayed up front with him the entire way. A late move saw Gacnik win the race by 10 seconds, but Thomas came in second at 16:26.
“I kind of hung on the back of the front pack and then made my move on the second mile,” Thomas said. “It was about being responsible in the flats and taking advantage of the downhills.”
Alexander Walker was 10th and Luke Fritsche finished 11th for the Erie Tigers to help the boys team finish in third place. Carlos Kipkorir was the top runner for Niwot, and their small pack time of 58 seconds allowed them to move up to fifth. After Broomfield in seventh place, Fairview finished eighth with Oliver Wright leading the team and Holy Family was ninth and led by Andrew Descalzo.
Boulder was third with Vieth’s strong run and Broomfield took fifth thanks to a 45-second pack time led by Allison Leister in the girls division. Silver Creek was right behind for sixth place and led by Cami Fischmann. Holy Family got a top-20 finish from Evelyn Boyd to come in seventh.