LITTLETON, Colo. — Battle Mountain Cross Country runners have heard Head Coach Rob Parish say it hundreds of times, “Practice is never cancelled for weather.” Wednesday at the Dakota Ridge Invitational that mental fortitude paid off as the Huskies battled their opponents and Mother Nature.
After driving over Vail Pass in snow, they made it down to the Denver Botanical Gardens in Littleton, and it was perfect running weather as they previewed the course — 60 degrees and no wind. About 10 minutes before the first race of the day a serious storm rolled in. As the team scrambled to lower the tent and the gusting wind turned it into a giant sail, race officials told the coaches that due to lightning races would be delayed.
While it’s almost certain Parish scoffed at the idea of canceling a race for a little lightning, teams cleared the start area and went back to the bus to wait out the storm. Finally, after 30 minutes of sitting on a bus full of smelly high school athletes, officials gave the all clear and prepared for the start of the meet.
The weather for the first two races was phenomenal and saw some very strong performances from Battle Mountain JV teams including a 4th and 5th place finish from Patrick Johnson and Jordan Slick. Like a no-hitter in baseball or a shutout in hockey, you should not mention good weather at a cross country meet in Colorado. Sure enough, half-way through the boys varsity race the clouds rolled in again and along with them some heavy wind.
Ty Willoughby, running his 2nd varsity race this year, led the Husky boys along with Will Thrasher. Both were in the top 10 at the mile mark and held on for strong top 20 finishes running 18:13 and 18:29 respectively.
“Ty and Will both were out hard and hung tough during that second mile as they ran into the wind.” said Husky Coach Jonny Stevens. “Ty was leading his pack and Will is so tall, I think the wind got to them a little, but they ran a very solid race in tough conditions. Will has been a little impetuous that first mile of all his races this year and he had an aggressive start again (Wednesday), but that was the best he’s held on and he fought to the end.”
Franklin Riley also had a strong last half of the race closing to 24th place.
“Franklin made up almost 20 seconds on the leaders in the last mile and half race. A very strong run from a guy who has the chance to run for us at the Regional meet in Delta,” Stevens said.
Closing out the scoring for the Husky boys was Koby Simonton (47th 19:04), and Nathaniel Badger (50th 19:08). The Boys Varsity placed 6th as a team and was the 2nd best 4A team in the race.
The girls varsity race was also a success and provided a great opportunity for some underclassmen to gain varsity racing experience. The first three Husky runners were all freshman. Alex Raichart led the way finishing in 18th place running 20:59.
Parish during the race commented, “Alex is incredibly coachable. We said to be in the top group at the start and there she is throwing elbows with the top 15 at the mile mark. “ Raichart would hold on to lead the Huskies to an 8th place team finish 2nd among 4A competition. The other two freshman girls at the front were Sarah Smith who ran a PR of 21:27 on the windy course good for 30th place and Elizabeth Constien who closed to a time of 21:42 and 47th place.
“Sarah ran very consistent race. She measured it out perfectly and finished almost exactly the same position she was in at the mile,” Parish said.
Rounding out the scoring for the Huskies was Nell Snow (22:22, 64th) and Lily McMurrain (22:39).
The Huskies have a short turn around as the entire team heads to Aspen Saturday for the Chris Severy Invitational.