IHS harriers make history at first 2019 meet

Charlize Valdez (5) begins the final hill with nothing but open air ahead of her Friday afternoon, Aug. 23, at Dolores High’s inaugural Boggy Draw Bear Chase. Also, a volleyball player for IHS, Valdez earned the young Lady Bobcat program’s first-ever individual title at the meet.
Charlize Valdez receives and examines her first-place medal—also the reborn Lady Bobcat Cross-Country program’s first—after winning the high-school girls’ race Friday afternoon, Aug. 23, at Dolores High’s inaugural Boggy Draw Bear Chase.
Avaleena Nanaeto (4) ascends the final hill Friday afternoon, Aug. 23, at the Dolores-hosted inaugural Boggy Draw Bear Chase. Nanaeto was one of two harriers returning from last season’s reborn roster competing in the 2019-opening race.
Brianna Henderson (3) attacks the final hill Friday afternoon, Aug. 23, at the Dolores-hosted inaugural Boggy Draw Bear Chase. Henderson was one of two harriers returning from last season’s reborn roster competing in the 2019-opening race.
D’Vondra ‘Diggy’ Garcia (2) grins while loping down the finish-area hill Friday afternoon, Aug. 23, at the Dolores-hosted inaugural Boggy Draw Bear Chase. Garcia was one of three squad newcomers making their long-distance debuts at the meet.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Valdez earns first place, Lady ’Cats second

Reviving a decades-dormant cross country program last year led to many ‘firsts’ for Ignacio. But even with one runner actually qualifying for the 2018 CHSAA Class 2A State Championships, one major achievement, a victory, eluded the team. Not anymore.

Competing in her first race ever, at a distance much longer than any familiar to her from track-and-field seasons past, junior Charlize Valdez got the 2019 season underway in grand fashion as she persevered past one of the meet favorites to conquer all at Dolores High’s inaugural Boggy Draw Bear Chase Friday afternoon, August 23.

“I wasn’t expecting it; I just went out to run! But it feels really good,” she said. “I might have started a little too quick because I definitely felt it in the middle. But right at the beginning and right at the end I gave it my all.”

“She played it smart,” said head coach Daniel Holley, in charge this fall with predecessor Marissa Duffey having moved north to the Denver area. “She went out there and set her eyes on something to achieve, made her move at the right time and it paid off for her.”

Already very much out in the proverbial – and literal – sticks atop and well north of Dunlap Hill (the familiar rise behind DHS’ football field), Valdez and others responded to the starter’s air horn and departed down Montezuma County Road W (a.k.a. Boggy Draw Road) before the course’s toughness began showing.

With several hills to challenge entrants, and rugged ground strewn with about every forest-style obstacle conceivable, the route did its best to slow down even the fastest hopefuls – including Mancos’ Grace Manning, who at one stage was reportedly leading Valdez and others by at least a couple hundred yards before hitting a wall.

“I run with her in track as well, so I know to keep my distance from her,” joked Valdez. “But also to stay with her, with a certain amount of space where I can catch her at the end. So, I just stayed with her the whole time – as much as I wanted to stop – and the very last quarter-mile kicked it in as much as I could … to beat her at the end.”

With beach-like sand giving runners one final test on both the penultimate climb to the finish and subsequent slight descent to the chute itself, Valdez knew simply to keep her knees and feet moving as quickly as possible, and crossed the line in a winning 23 minutes, 44 seconds.

Manning made it across 11 ticks later, with Montezuma-Cortez’s Ridley Dennison earning third in 25:28. Telluride teammates Ruby Tanguay (26:55) and Chloe Hehir (27:04) rounded out the 5K’s top five.

“I thought the course was great, you know? Almost wilderness like, to the sand, the hills and inclines,” Holley said. “Really well marked and laid out well, so ‘Good job’ to the course markers who did that for us.”

Sophomore Avaleena Nanaeto placed 12th in 30:23, with senior Brianna Henderson – with Nanaeto, IHS’ initial roll-out returnees – right behind in a 13th place 30:54. Newcomer Lexy Young, better known for her sprinting prowess in track, took 15th in 33:36, and fellow sophomore rookie D’Vondra ‘Diggy’ Garcia (38:04) was 20th.

“Vanessa [Gonzales] was on the team before, and I’d seen she’d posted about it. So I thought I’d join; she told me that it was a good sport to do, and you get yourself in shape,” said Garcia. “It was hard … because we haven’t run that many hills, but now I know what to expect throughout the season.”

“It was very hard,” Nanaeto agreed. “I felt I could have done way better. But that’s OK, for two weeks of running.”

“It was a tough course,” said Young. “Lots of hills, steep ones, but I made it through and it was a good race for my first one. I just didn’t push myself as much as I thought I would.”

“I thought it would be harder for me because I have asthma and thought the dust was going to interfere with that,” Henderson said. “But overall it wasn’t too bad; I just have to work on paying attention to the mile markers!”

“When the one said ‘First mile,’ I thought it was, like, ‘One more mile to go,’” she laughed. “So, I was picking up the pace a lot, but it was pretty good … and set a bar for me.”

M-CHS won the girls’ title at the small-scale event with a score-4 low of 27 points. Ignacio followed with 41, clipping both MHS (42) and THS (46). With just one entrant, seventh-place Anaya Martinez (28:03), Dolores did not qualify for the championship but Martinez’s finish did not affect the scoring.

“It’s just awesome to see when people can buy into something, and what can be accomplished when a group of people put their target on a goal, working together to get that sort of thing done,” said Holley, proud of his first squad’s first showing.

“They’ve shown up every day for practice this summer and it’s great to see that work paying off.”

Looking ahead on the schedule, the Lady Bobcats will compete Sept. 14 at the Bayfield Invitational, with action set to begin at 10 a.m. Results from IHS’ Aug. 29 appearance at the Aztec, N.M., Invitational were unavailable at press time.

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