Times Staff Writer
GHS Cross Country — Winning a title is hard for any athletic program to accomplish. Some programs go years, even decades, without ever getting close to the championship contest.
While that applies to some programs, it doesn’t apply to the Gunnison High School (GHS) cross country boys team, which just won their fifth straight 3A Region 1 championship on Friday in Aspen.
“They ran really well,” said head coach Lance Betts. “I was super impressed from all the performances.”
Colton Stice also accomplished an impressive feat on Friday, coming in first place for the second year in a row — while also improving, once again, on his time.
“It felt pretty good to finish in first again,” said Stice. “I have run a lot this year, so it's nice to see that your training has paid off in the postseason. I just want to carry that momentum into state this weekend.”
Stice finished in 16:40 — six seconds better than last year’s time of 16:46. With the win, Stice has now finished among the top three in six races this season, while winning four of them.
With that success, he has set his sights high for state — coming in first place.
Similar to Stice, Alex Baca also accomplished an impressive feat at regionals. Baca finished second with a personal best time of 16:57 — 26 seconds faster than last year’s time of 17:23, which earned him fth place.
“It felt really, really good,” said Baca. “It was nice to see training pay off.”
Going into state, Baca is hoping for either a podium finish — top 10 — or top 15 placing, while also running in the low 16s.
Last year, Baca finished 45th at state with a time of 17:32.
Braydon O’Neill also stood out this past weekend, finishing seventh with a time of 17:47 — a personal best for O’Neill this season. After getting off to a strong start to the season — finishing fourth at Devil’s Thumb Hill Climb — O’Neill struggled to place in the top five. Yet that didn’t stop O’Neill from improving at each race.
Throughout the season, O’Neill has shaved off time at each race, and even managed to place in the top 10 in the final two races of the season.
Rounding out scoring for the boys was Brennan Stice, who came in 15th place. The boys will have a tough task ahead of them on Saturday at the Colorado State Cross Country Championships, looking to improve on last year’s eighth- place finish.
Girls make it 17 in a row
While the GHS boys had multiple standout performances, things didn’t go as well for the girls, who finished fourth overall. That’s one place lower than last year’s finish. Despite the drop in placing, the GHS girls kept alive the 17-year streak of sending a team to the state championships.
“We had a lot of really tough performances,” said Betts. “We were super impressed by the level of determination we saw during the race.”
Ivy Pelletier led the way for the girls, coming in fourth place — 11 places better than last year— with a time of 20:34.
“It was pretty amazing to come in fourth,” said Pelletier. “I didn’t expect to get that, and even though I didn’t get the time I wanted, it was amazing.”
Which comes as no surprise, since Pelletier recently earned first place at the Eric Wolff Invitational in Monte Vista.
Throughout the season, Pelletier has made great strides, finishing in the top 10 in all of her races, three of which were top-three finishes. Pelletier’s times also have improved over the course of the season.
“This season has been a little bit slower than I wanted,” said Pelletier. “The last couple meets, I started to get my times closer to what I wanted, so I hope it carries over to state.”
Pelletier came into the 3A Region 1 Championships ranked No.12.
Rounding out the scoring for the girls were Esperenza Antonarez and Annelise Pelletier who came in 17th and 19th, respectively.
The Colorado State Cross Country Championships will take place at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs this coming Saturday, Oct. 27. The boys race is scheduled for 9 a.m., while the girls race at 11 a.m.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)