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Cross country: Mead’s Keegan Caldwell and Niwot’s Olivia Alessandrini win at Lyons

In name of social distancing, the race was a time trial

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Olivia Alessandrini, left, Cayden Justice, and Lexy Bullen, all of Niwot, placed in the top three of the girls race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Keegan Caldwell, right, of Mead, wins the boys race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Olivia Alessandrini, of Niwot, wins the girls race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Keegan Caldwell, right, of Mead, wins the boys race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Olivia Alessandrini, of Niwot, wins the girls race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Patrick Ash, of Silver Creek, finished second in the boys race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Lexy Bullen, of Niwot, begins the girls race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Olivia Alessandrini, of Niwot, wins the girls race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Olivia Alessandrini, left, Cayden Justice, and Lexy Bullen, all of Niwot, placed in the top three of the girls race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Hannah Thomas, of Lyons, begins her race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Simon Saia, of Niwot, finishes third. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Nathan Hoffman, of Mead, begins his race, as part of a time-trial start for social distancing. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Simon Saia, of Niwot, finishes third. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Cole Thomas, of Lyons during the second lap. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Simon Saia, of Niwot, finishes third. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • LYONS CO - September 11, 2020: Cole Thomas, of Lyons High, starts his race. The second phase of the St Vrain Invite cross country was held in Lyons on September 11, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

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LYONS — Just as high school athletes are asked to adapt to the times, Friday’s St. Vrain District No. 2 meet reflected another of sports’ new normal.

Distance running? Or is it distant running?

The infield grass at the Lyons High School track befitted a Black Friday sale as runners snaked single file behind the race’s start, eagerly awaiting their turn. Set up like a time trial, one by one they and their personal timing chip were sent out onto the course. Slowly but surely, the long, organized line evaporated and a different kind of competition ensued.

“It was weird having nobody next to you at the start,” said Mead senior Keegan Caldwell, who won the boys’ race. “I definitely don’t like it as much.”

Still works, though. Caldwell trekked onto the course first thanks to his top seed time, and he ran alone throughout his victory in 16 minutes, 22.50 seconds. Silver Creek’s Patrick Ash, who was seeded second, started about two seconds behind Caldwell and finished runner-up in 16:54.60.

In the girls race, Niwot freshman Olivia Alessandrini started second to teammate Lexy Bullen only to cross first in 19:47.40.

“It’s definitely strange,” Alessandrini said. When you’re spread out, “you just got to race how you feel.”

Cross country races around the state have had to adjust to the new rules and restrictions in place due to COVID-19. Not knowing if the sport would be greenlit until last minute, programs scrambled to put together socially distant races as all the large, longstanding meets had to be cut or were completely overhauled.

Now, meets can only allow a certain number of individuals at a venue. Some races feature waves of 25 runners going at once. Others have gone to this time-trial approach.

“It’s kind of hard to tell how fast you’re going,” Caldwell said as he pointed to his watchless wrist. “If there is someone who is close to you in second place, you don’t know if they’re beating you or you are beating them.”

Most of the protocols in place, however, haven’t seemed to have much of an effect. When asked about the required use of a mask at the start and finish, neither Caldwell nor Alessandrini minded. Even the small starts and time trials isn’t anything they can’t handle.

As for state in a month?! That was fast.

Starting practice only four weeks ago, the state meet is just a month away.

“We’re training a lot more aggressively,” said defending Class 2A champ Lyons’ Quin Gregg, finishing ninth on Friday in 20:44.40. “We’re trying to make up for a lost track season. Cross country and track lean on each other. You improve in track. You improve in cross country. We’ve had to make up for that loss and train accordingly with the time we have.”

Nine teams took part in the races at Lyons Friday. Mead won the overall boys race with 38 points. Niwot, without its top runners, won the girls race with 19 points.

For full results, click here.