Basalt’s Maley, Glenwood’s Swanson win inaugural Coal Ridge cross country invite
Site will host Class 3A regional meet on Oct. 22
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Glenwood Springs High School freshman Ben Swanson’s first-ever high school cross country meet was a winner, but his longtime competitive buddy Tyler Parker of Coal Ridge very nearly had something to say about that.
The two were neck-and-neck during most of Friday morning’s Coal Ridge Invitational, held at VIX Park in New Castle — also a first — before Swanson pulled away and stayed in front of a ferocious finishing kick by Parker to win it.
It was a personal best time for both, as Swanson covered the 5-kilometer course in 17 minutes, 8.5 seconds. The Titans junior crossed in 17:10.9.
“I felt really strong coming out of the start and through the whole course,” Swanson said of the two-lap course that looped around Riverside Middle School and Kathryn Senor Elementary, finishing in the middle of the VIX Park ballfield complex.
Being his first meet at the high school level, the promising Demons frosh said he wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a strong field that also included some of the region’s top runners from Moffat County, Basalt, Battle Mountain, North Fork, Meeker, Delta and Pagosa Springs.
“I just stayed a little bit back at the beginning, and once I had a feel for the course I did what I could do,” Swanson said.
Parker said it’s exciting for Coal Ridge to finally host a home cross country meet. The venue will also host the Class 3A Region 1 state qualifier on Oct. 22.
“Benny and I have been racing each other for a long time, and I’m just looking for that one day when I can beat him,” Parker said.
Hosting a home meet is a pretty big deal for the growing Coal Ridge cross country program, he said.
“A lot of the Coal Ridge kids are seniors, so it’s a good send-off for them,” Parker said. “And to have regionals here will be pretty special.”
Finishing third in the boys race was Moffat County senior Kale Johnson with a time of 17:57.2, followed by Basalt senior Ross Barlow in 18:16 and Coal Ridge sophomore Dallin Karen in 18:20.2.
Battle Mountain won the team title with 48 points, followed by Moffat County with 66 and Coal Ridge with 73.
Maley cruises to girls win
The Basalt Longhorns cruised to the girls team win on the heels of juniors Katelyn Maley and Ava Lane, who finished 1-2 at the Coal Ridge meet.
With Glenwood’s top two runners, Ella Johnson and Sophia Connerton-Nevin, opting to run in Saturday’s Liberty Bell Invitational in Littleton instead, and Coal Ridge No. 1 Mikayla Cheney out for Friday’s home meet, Maley easily led from the start.
Maley crossed in 18:10.4, with Lane almost a minute back in 19:07.8 and Delta freshman Paige Kehmeier finishing third in 19:57.8.
Teamwise, it was Basalt in first with 42 points, followed by Battle Mountain with 71, Coal Ridge with 92 and Moffat County with 93.
“It was awesome to have Ava there with me, and all our other teammates,” Maley said. “It’s still early and our next few weeks will be pretty tough, but we’re excited to just keep working and get faster as a team.”
Having a sneak preview of the regional venue was also a plus, Maley and Lane agreed.
“It’s a super fun course, and now we kind of have an idea of what it’s going to look like,” Lane said. “It will be a little bit different when there are more girls here, but it’s nice to have a chance to run it before then.”
The Basalt boys and girls travel to run in the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in Norco, California, Sept. 17, which invites some of the top interstate competitors from the western U.S.
Finishing in fourth for the girls was Coal Ridge senior Araceli Ayala, with a time of 20:23.1. She, too, was excited to run a home meet.
“It’s exciting for our senior year to get to run where we practice a lot,” she said. “It was a good introduction to the course, and it makes me feel more excited for regionals, now that I know where I’m stronger and where I’m weaker on the course.”
Coal Ridge head coach Chris Ozminkowski said the regional hosting honor rotates around to all 12 of the 3A schools in western Colorado, and this will be a first for the Titans.
“It’s a great experience for our kids,” he said. “We have a lot of juniors and seniors, and I think they’re excited to actually show themselves at home with all their friends and family around.”
The regional meet will feature all of the area 3A teams, including Coal Ridge, Rifle, Basalt, Aspen and Moffat County, with teams coming from as far away as Alamosa, Bayfield and Cortez.
The fight was there until the bitter end for the Longhorns, but the hole that was dug was too deep to climb out of.