Lady ‘Cats cop fifth at Southwest Classic

Lexy Young (537) and Lauren deKay (538) pursue Fruita Monument’s Kelli Bond (520) during the Grand Junction Tiger Invitational’s JV feature Friday evening, Sept. 11.
Charlize Valdez (396) enjoys some welcome shade alongside Maci Barnes (383) during varsity action at the Grand Junction Tiger Invitational Saturday morning, Sept. 12.
Alannah Gomez (394) cruises along through a shaded part of the Grand Junction Tiger Invitational’s route during varsity action Saturday morning, Sept. 12.
Avaleena Nanaeto (926) was a cool customer during varsity action Friday afternoon, Sept. 18, at the 2020 Four Corners Southwest Classic at Hillcrest Golf Course in Durango, Colo.
Moriah Ashley (923) tries passing Mancos’ Chloe Endres (929) during varsity action Friday afternoon, Sept. 18, at the 2020 Four Corners Southwest Classic at Hillcrest Golf Course in Durango, Colo.
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

Barnes, Valdez post top-20 times in Durango

Admitting it may seem that, on paper, his two-time Class 2A State Cross-Country Championships veteran has been struggling as of late, Ignacio head coach Daniel Holley isn’t remotely worried about Avaleena Nanaeto with the 2020 season beginning its final month.

“Absolutely not,” he stated recently. “I know Avee; I’ve coached her for almost two years now and I know that she finds her stride in the middle of October, right when it counts.”

And one way or another, the Lady Bobcats can only benefit.

Worst-case scenario, Nanaeto could lead a potential State-qualifying team bid from behind should she remain a strong No. 4 attempting to push present No. 1 Maci Barnes, fellow 2019 State qualifier Charlize Valdez and steady junior Alannah Gomez forward through traffic, while staying as close as possible to tighten IHS’ pack.

“She’s really starting to find her stride, figuratively and literally,” Holley said of Nanaeto. “She’s starting to settle into a good pace and … she’s going to bring her times down more.”

And at best, Nanaeto, Barnes and Valdez will all run like 1s – or something akin to 4A Durango’s performance Friday afternoon, Sept. 18, at the Four Corners Southwest Classic. 3A Alamosa’s Sarah De La Cerda won the girls’ individual title in 20:25, beating DHS’ Angela McManus by nine seconds, but AHS ultimately finished distant runners-up to Durango in the team standings as the Lady Demons’ scoring quintet placed 2-3-4-5-6 – with the latter four harriers separated by just 47 seconds.

All told, Durango totaled a score-5 low of 20 points, dominating Alamosa’s adjusted 79. La Jara-based 2A Centauri earned, via tiebreaker – each team’s No. 6 placer – over 3A Pagosa Springs, third place with 80 while Ignacio amassed an adjusted 107 (11-17-21-28-30) to take fifth from 2A San Juan Basin League rival Mancos (133).

“It was way better in Grand Junction; it was on concrete and it was in the shade – it was nice,” said Barnes, commenting on the late-summer conditions at Hillcrest Golf Course in Durango, Colo. as compared to the previous Saturday’s GJHS Invitational held on the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park, Connected Lakes Section route.

“But I felt like we did pretty good; the wind felt really good when we were running against it.”

Barnes’ outstanding freshman campaign continued with a team-leading 11th-place 23:23; she was just nine ticks from top-ten status. Valdez finished 17th in 23:51, but was only seven seconds out of 15th.

“Looks great,” Holley said. “Her conditioning’s really coming into her best as we move into the season, you know?”

Gomez clocked 24:42 and took 22nd, while Nanaeto (26:35) came in 31st and Moriah Ashley (27:51) 34th.

“All the workouts that we’d done in practice, I’d told Maci and Charlize to work together; Charlize has really been a good role model … teaching her how to pace, teaching her how to run a race,” explained Holley. “It’s kind of becoming ‘expected’ for them, those two working together and running together – and seeing how hard they can kick at the end! That’s really awesome to see.”

Though a couple steps slower across the board, the Lady Bobcats’ effort more or less mirrored their work put forth up in Mesa County. Barnes ran 21:24.0 and finished 21st, followed by Valdez’s 28th-place 21:44.3 and Gomez’s 38th-place 23:02.8. Nanaeto then followed in 41st with a 23:49.4 and Ashley took 44th in 25:14.3.

(Permitted to enter up to seven varsity runners at the G.J. Invite, Holley took full advantage; senior Vanessa Gonzales placed 45th in 25:14.3, and freshman Zoey Ashley, making her prep debut, was 47th in 28:19.2.)

5A Fruita Monument captured first in the girls’ team standings with an adjusted meet-low 34 (1-3-9-10-11) points, while 3A Aspen ended up second with 54 and 4A Palisade third with 84. 4A Gypsum Eagle Valley (97) and the hosting 4A Lady Tigers (101) then followed, with IHS (155; 19-26-34-37-39) taking sixth.

“Last week was a low-elevation, early-morning start; this is a higher-elevation…different course, in the late afternoon when it’s hot. And our kids are really starting to get into the peak of their workouts, so I know their legs were beat up,” said Holley. “With all that said, I’m so happy with the times.”

“I think he’s going to push us,” Barnes said, “until like a week before regionals. Then he’ll give us a little break.”

After a weekend off, IHS’ varsity will next travel to Mancows’ Chicken Creek Challenge on Saturday, Oct. 3. Results from Ignacio’s JV meet Thursday evening, Sept. 24, beginning and ending on the IHS track, were unavailable at press time.


In Grand Junction, Ignacio was able to enter a small crew in the Tiger Invite’s JV event, held the evening before the varsity race and on the same course. Freshman Darlyn Lechuga placed 23rd in 26:38.8, freshman Lauren deKay was next across the finish line, taking 28th in 28:08.8, and junior Lexy Young was 29th in 28:11.0.

“Lexy … actually found out on the bus ride up that she was going to be on JV,” Holley said, alluding to the fact Young had run on varsity last season before injuries sidetracked her, “and she was able to push everything aside, not let it get to her, and actually go run a great race.”

“Lauren and Darlyn, those two have been working really hard,” he continued. “First-time runners, and I told them if they’re interested in cross-country they should stick with it a few more years and see what they can get.”

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