BOULDER — Centaurus senior Max Heins knows how to rise to the challenge.
After winning a couple of easier races thus far in the fall season, he upped the ante during the Pat Patten Invitational at Viele Lake behind Fairview High School on a sunny Saturday morning. And, even though he couldn’t quite eclipse Palmer Ridge’s Jacob Bach in the end, he cruised to second place with a time of 16 minutes, 0.4 seconds, just two seconds behind Bach.
He planned on locking himself onto the leading group of boys and letting the chips fall where they may. He executed that strategy with style and finesse.
“I wouldn’t have run like that if there weren’t those guys there, so racing today was really fun, to be honest,” he said. “Lots of good competition today.”
Despite competing against some of the top teams in the state, including the likes of Cheyenne Mountain and Mountain Vista, Heins didn’t have to wait long to cheer on his teammate, Jacob Schwarting, who placed seventh at 16:21.4, or Fairview senior Tim Churchill.
Churchill entered the race with the goal of sticking with boys he thought were faster than him, and it paid off when he crossed the finish line 10th after clocking in at 16:27.3, beating out two others by less than 0.4 seconds.
He led the Knights to a team win at 87 points to edge out second-place Rock Canyon by just one point. Centaurus finished fourth at 116.
“I think our boys team is very strong. Also, almost more importantly, it’s really, really deep. Our top five could be exchangeable on any day,” Churchill said. “It feels great because you don’t have to worry as much if you have a bad day because you know that you have some other friendly people there to take your place if you fall down.”
Both Heins and Churchill enjoyed the scenery and unique challenges of a course that fell in the shadow of the Flatirons. The diversity of the track, from grass and pavement to hills and flatter spots, added to the overall allure of the race.
The Boulder and St. Vrain Valley kids rose to the challenge.
“As always, it’s definitely one of the best meets as far as talent coming into this,” said Boulder coach Geo Tam, who hosted the event. “It’s a running town. We got some competitive people in Boulder County. I think going into it, all the local teams know that it’s a competitive meet and they bring out their best. It’s fun to see how well Boulder County, in general, does at this meet.”
Three local ladies grace the top 10
Niwot coach Kelly Christensen teaches his athletes how to respond to in-race adversity, and no runner better exemplified that than freshman Avalon Beltran.
In a race stacked with talent and absolutely dominated by Mountain Vista, Beltran spent much of the time lagging behind the leading group before making her move at the end.
“The first lap felt really good to me and then the second, I struggled a bit more, and it hurt a bit more,” she explained. “Then my coaches were persuading me to pick it up a little bit. On the last loop, it was the last uphill after the one grass part, I was closing in somewhat on a group of girls, and then I kind of wanted to pass them. So I did that. On the last really big uphill, I was able to pass a bigger group and then the last downhill, I just gave it my all.”
She finished fourth with a 19:12.9 time, just 0.49 seconds behind the leading lady. Fairview sophomore Sierra Wall and Boulder junior Kiki Vaughn wasted no time following in her footsteps. Wall ended her race two seconds later at 19:14.8 — good for sixth — and Vaughn claimed the seventh spot at 19:18.9.
“I know a lot of the girls, so it was kind of fun to see Rosie (Mucharsky of Denver East) ahead of me and just know that I can push it like that,” Wall said. “All the girls are really good because all the schools are really good, so it was really fun.”
While nobody came close to touching Mountain Vista’s 35 team points, the Knights did manage third with 105 collective points. Boulder claimed fourth at 175, thanks in large part to Vaughn, who didn’t believe she ran the race she was capable of.
She still beat out 140 other girls.
“I think my season has been going a little better than my performance today in this race,” Vaughn said. “I have a thirds rule, like a third of your races are good, a third are mediocre and a third are bad. Maybe just today wasn’t as good of a race as I could have had.”