State cross country: Multiple teams looking to reclaim titles or continue historic seasons

Meet takes place Saturday in Colorado Springs

Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer
Lyons’ Isaac Roberts and the Lions are looking for a strong finish at the state meet this weekend.

All the miles on the trails and roads ran has come down to one final race Saturday.

The state cross country meet concludes the season this weekend and features many local teams scheduled to compete at the Norris Penrose Event Center.

For some teams, they welcome athletes that turned in impressive seasons and either helped to qualify their team or qualified individually for state, and they are hoping to leave with an individual title for their efforts. Other teams will be making the trip looking to bring home some hardware as the best in their classification.

Niwot and Lyons each took home trophies last year with top-two team finishes and are hopeful to repeat their success at state this week.

The Lyons boys will be the first to hit the course and look to take a step further this year and win a state title after finishing in second place in 2018. Isaac Roberts is also looking to move one spot up this year in Colorado Springs and run the fastest time after coming in second place a year ago. He ran the fastest time in the 2A Region 1 meet with a time of 16 minutes, 37 seconds and teammate Jordan Shackelford, who was fifth at state last year, finished third in regionals in 17 minutes, 47 seconds. Cole Thomas, Arjen Wyjna and Nick Parker rounded out the top five for the team at regionals.

As for the Lyons girls, they will look to repeat as the state champs in Class 2A. Katie Fankhouser finished in first place and Quin Gregg was second at state for the Lions last year. Alora Cross and Hannah Thomas also finished in the top 12. All four return, and with the addition of freshman Jamieson Legh coming off her third-place finish at regionals, the team is loaded for another run at the title.

“You never like to too far ahead, but talking to this group of kids after the state meet (last year), they were thinking about this year,” Lyons coach Mark Roberts said. “Everyone has done the necessary work… We feel pretty good that we know how to go down to this meet and run intelligently.”

Niwot's Samrawit Dishon, left, and Taylor ...
Brad Cochi/
Niwot’s Samrawit Dishon, left, and Taylor James at the St. Vrain Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.

Another team eyeing two potential team titles this week is Niwot in Class 4A. The Cougars are the defending champs on the girls side and have turned in another dominant season. At their regional meet, the team had the top five finishers in the race with Samrawit Dishon leading a group that includes returning state medalist Taylor James and other top runners Madison Shults, Joelle McDonald and Amelia Philofsky.

“We’re healthy and running confident,” Niwot coach Kelly Christensen said. “Hopefully we can duplicate our efforts at this point… Those girls know having been on the losing end and winning end the mind set you need to have going into state.”

Cruz Culpepper is also back for the Niwot boys team and will look to repeat as the individual champion in the Class 4A boys race. Culpepper won with a time of 15 minutes, 48 seconds at state last year and is coming off a first-place performance in the regional meet this year. Christensen believes his team will also be in the running with Cheyenne Mountain, Air Academy and Durango for one of the top spots in the team standings as well.

Other top local runners that are eyeing a spot on the podium include James Overberg of Centaurus after finishing second to lead the Warriors in regionals, Peak to Peak’s Ryan Kuykendall, who was fifth at regionals and will look to lead the Pumas this week, and Helen Cross, the individual champion at state in Class 2A in 2017 who followed up by finishing fifth last year for Nederland.

While most eyes will be on the top teams and runners looking to bring home hardware, the state meet will also serve as a final breakout chance for other local teams and runners that exceeded expectations to make it to Colorado Springs.

Jefferson Academy has seen a big season from its boys team and continued its success at regionals with Jacob Crookston claiming a regional title and the team coming in first place. There was also a big jump for the Jaguars with their younger girls team to secure a spot in state in the meet.

“Our boys team is coming off of winning our first regional championship and is feeling really confident,” Jefferson Academy coach Benjamin Hershelman said. “We have flown under the radar this season and are looking to surprise some people on Saturday… Our girls team showed all the guts in the world last Friday at regionals. They came in ranked sixth and ended up finishing fourth to snag the final qualifying spot to state.”

Erie and Mead both battled in a close race in the 4A Region 4 meet to qualify as a team in the boys race. Keegan Caldwell finished second overall for Mead and looks to be a candidate to reach the medal podium, but it was Erie who edged by in the team scores with Luke Fritsche and Alexander Walker earning top-10 finishes. Another top runner from that race who has broken out on the scene is Longmont’s Connor McCormick, a converted football player who led the way for the boys team to qualify for state.

In Class 2A, Twin Peaks Charter Academy will send its entire boys team to state and will be led by Giorgio Spensieri and Aaron Jenkins following their top-20 finishes at regionals.

Colorado State Cross Country Championships

Location: Norris Penrose Event Center, Colorado Springs

Date: Oct. 26, 2019

9 a.m.: 2A boys (Lyons, Twin Peaks)

9:40 a.m.: 4A girls (Centaurus, Erie, Niwot, Silver Creek)

10:20 a.m.: 2A girls (Dawson, Lyons, Nederland)

11 a.m.: 4A boys (Centaurus, Erie, Longmont, Mead, Niwot, Silver Creek)

11:40 a.m.: Unified race (Lyons will have Catherine Darrow run)

12:20 p.m.: 3A girls (Holy Family, Jefferson Academy, Peak to Peak, Prospect Ridge Academy)

1 p.m.: 5A boys (Boulder, Broomfield, Fairview, Legacy, Monarch)

1:40 p.m.: 3A boys (Holy Family, Jefferson Academy, Peak to Peak, Prospect Ridge Academy)

2:20 p.m.: 5A girls (Boulder, Broomfield, Fairview, Legacy, Monarch)