IHS sophs are Wolverines’ No. 1, 3 XC runners

At most stops along the way during the high school cross-country season, a time around 18 minutes often – particularly in Class 3A – has one running either amongst the leaders or very close to them.

Competing for Bayfield High School this fall, Ignacio’s Jonas Nanaeto recorded such an effort on Sept. 9, and his 18:00.24 was far and away his best showing yet. But upon the Cattails Golf Course grounds in Alamosa, a route designed for speed, the sophomore found himself crossing the finish line at the heels of 3A Zuni, New Mexico’s Diminic Yuselew … in a sprint to decide 59th place (out of 229 finishers, however).

Just for comparison, 5A Littleton Dakota Ridge’s Connor Ohlson clocked a winning 15-minute, 26.72-second timing at the Joe I. Vigil Open, bettering teammate Austin Vancil’s 15:30.11. 4A Durango’s Aidan Fitzgerald was fast, but another 26.08 ticks behind in third.

Still, without Nanaeto willing to gain experience competing against large-school talent, Bayfield wouldn’t have been able to manage anything close to its 11th-place team score of 303 points (DRHS won with a meet-low 27, DHS took second with 46, and 3A powerhouse Alamosa was third with 116).

Without multiple Bobcats running as Wolverines in 2017, BHS’ program would be in trouble. For what the harriers may lack in accumulated year-to-year experience, they’re already making up for in consistency.

“So far … they’ve done a lot for us,” head coach Josh Walton declared recently. “It’s really … they found out about us, and not so much we found out about them. Since I started coaching four years ago, I’ve been working with IHS athletic director Rocky Cundiff, trying to get kids from Ignacio that want to run to come … run for us.” That want has been evident from Day 1 and the first starting gun.

Most recently, at the 3rd Annual Southwest Sunset XC Classic on Friday night, Sept. 15, IHS sophomore Elco Garcia, Jr., was the Wolverines’ top finisher with a 33rd-place 17:39.25. Still not yet up to full speed due to a nagging injury, BHS senior Sloan Mazur crossed next in 61st (18:19.55) with Nanaeto – who’d turned 16 a couple days earlier – close behind in 64th (18:22.15) out of 209 entrants.

Looking at their times, the improvement is evident.

At the season-opening Cheyenne Mountain Stampede (Aug. 25) in Colorado Springs, Garcia had paced the Wolverines with a 21st-place 18:47.1, and Nanaeto was 61st in 20:16.1. At the next weekend’s Lake County High Altitude Challenge in Leadville, Garcia again led the way with a 16th-place 19:33.2 and Nanaeto again was BHS’ #3 – following Mazur again – with a 48th-place 20:54.5.

Garcia then clocked a scorching 17:22.45 at the Vigil and led the crew with his 30th-place result.

“Elco, our number-one runner currently … he has improved a ton from last year,” said Walton. “My primary example is, last year he ran a 21-flat in Leadville and this year he ran 19:33 on the exact same course! A minute and a half … is huge!”

“I see lots of potential in him; he just keeps improving and putting in the time.”

“I see Sloan coming into form as we get further into the season as his Achilles tendon heals – got a little tendinitis in it,” Walton continued. “But Elco and Sloan really … run together. When we’re doing intervals or we’re doing regional-repeats or stuff, Jonas will kind of hang with Sloan and Elco – but I kind of let them run at paces they feel comfortable.”

“Nanaeto…he’s our number-three right now, running very well. And he’s involved with the Tribe doing Bear Dances… That’s good training for cross-country.”

Also new to the squad is freshman Nakai Lovato. Though not yet with as much competition mileage under his soles as his fellow Bobcat brethren, he has seen action through the season’s first half – registering a varsity 164th-place 20:48 at the Sunset XC Classic, and a junior-varsity 30th-place 24:04.5 at the HAC (elevation 10,000+).

“He’s still young – well, they’re all still young – and that’s helpful to the future of our team,” said Walton.

After recuperating over the Sept. 22-23 weekend, the Bobcats and Wolverines will resume work at the 9/29 Sweitzer Lake Invitational in Delta, followed by the Oct. 14 Eric Wolff Invitational out in Monte Vista.

The 3A-Region I Championships are set for 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, on Delta’s fast Confluence Park course. And for those fortunate to qualify, the State Championships then await on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Norris-Penrose Event Center – tracing the same route as the Stampede- in Colorado Springs with the 3A boys’ race starting at 12:40 p.m. and the 3A girls’ at 2 p.m.

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