Challenge Met: Harriers survive Chicken Creek

Ignacio’s Vanessa Gonzales (515) prepares to attack the last straightaway closing out the Mancos-hosted Chicken Creek Challenge’s girls’ varsity race, Oct. 3 north of town. She placed 18th in 25:58.
Ignacio’s Charlize Valdez (383) led the Lady ’Cat varsity at Pagosa Springs’ Sept. 25 Pirate Cross-Country Challenge, clocking a 19th-place 27:05 on the forested Reservoir Hill Park course in what was a last-minute addition to IHS’ schedule.
Ignacio’s Phillip Quintana (440) was one of just two Bobcat boys entered in Pagosa Springs’ Sept. 25 Pirate Cross-Country Challenge – a last-minute addition to the varsity’s schedule. He finished the forested Reservoir Hill Park course in a 33rd-place time of 24:28.
Ignacio’s Eppie Quintana (570) ascends a slight rise exiting of a forested section of the Mancos-hosted Chicken Creek Challenge’s course north of town Saturday, Oct. 3. He finished the boys’ varsity race in 18th place, clocking a time of 21:24.
Ignacio’s Moriah Ashley (512) passes Mancos’ Chloe Endres (520) late in the MHS-hosted Chicken Creek Challenge’s girls’ varsity race north of Mancos — Saturday, Oct. 3. Ashley ended up taking 14th place; her time was 25:03.
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

IHS girls grab second place, boys secure sixth

Long aware that a good number of his boys’ cross-country roster were football players hoping to fill a void when CHSAA originally announced that the 2020 gridiron season was being pushed to Spring ’21, Ignacio head coach Daniel Holley has been even more aware of the increased mental toll on those same harriers – just as, if not more eager to don helmet and pads with the Association having very recently reversed its decision.

“You could just kind of see it in their demeanor, that they are dealing with it, plus school … and making sure that they’re in the best athletic shape possible,” he said.  “Especially being in starting roles and upperclassmen on the [football] team … there’s a lot of stress on their plate, you know?”

If there indeed was some on Dylan Labarthe’s dish, however, the bearded senior apparently devoured it and let his body convert everything into energy Saturday morning, Oct. 3, at the 2020 Chicken Creek Challenge.

Held roughly 2.5 miles north of Mancos and as many east, on a forested course presenting runners with about every obstacle conceivable – including hills, soft dirt, broken tree branches, rocks, much bigger rocks, a cattle guard or two – plus omnipresent horse-apples and cow-pies underfoot in case one’s shoes didn’t get dirty enough, the MHS-hosted meet is geared to push all comers as well as punish newcomers.

But despite being a first-year runner, Labarthe didn’t look the part at the event – reduced this year by coronavirus-mitigation measures to just seven participating schools – as he recorded a Bobcat-best time of 20 minutes, 29 seconds.  And though more than three minutes slower than the winner’s, his effort, a fraction of a tick faster than 3A Pagosa Springs’ Noah Weiszbrod’s, stood for a solid seventh place overall as IHS amassed a sixth-place, adjusted score-4 total of 71 points.

“Dylan’s really coming on strong.  He’s in really good shape, he’s really been crushing some of the workouts in the afternoons, and I’ve been really impressed with him … dual-sporting between football and cross-country,” said Holley.  “It’s really cool to see him handle both workloads and still perform well.”

Led by senior Zeb Shields’ blazing 17:22, 3A Bayfield also earned the team title with a meet-low 42 points, while 4A Durango – utilizing a crew comprised of varsity reserves and JV regulars – had to settle for second place with 47.  3A Montezuma-Cortez took third with 54, followed by Mancos (65), PSHS (67), Ignacio, and Dolores (84).

Testing a hurting leg on the rugged route, sophomore Eppie Quintana gutted out an 18th-place 21:24 for the ’Cats, and freshman brother Phillip followed with a 19th-place 21:32 – further highlighting a squad performance which actually would have ranked fourth in a score-5 format.

“Phillip, he’s been PR’ing every time he runs.  So that’s been awesome to see him getting stronger,” Holley stated.  “And Eppie does have a little knee thing going on, but I think once he gets a little rest in there he should be alright.”

Junior Gabe Tucson, another FB/XC hybrid, placed 27th in 23:11 with freshman Trajan Garcia just seven seconds back in 28th.  Freshman Gabe Cox was the last ’Cat into the finish chute with a 36th-place 25:45.

Leading the ladies to a runner-up score-4 count of 36 points, freshman Maci Barnes and senior Charlize Valdez placed a potent 4-5 individually, with the former – who, like Labarthe, Eppie Quintana and a few other stalwarts, did not compete at the previous Friday evening’s PSHS Cross-Country Challenge – clocking 23:02 and the latter 23:07.

By comparison, PSHS’ Megan Greenly won in 22 minutes, 33 seconds, with Durango’s Bailey Freeman (22:40) kicking late down the home stretch to swipe second from Mancos’ Grace Manning (22:43) and pace DHS to victory with a meet-low 27 points.  Pagosa Springs ended up in third place with 40, as MHS (56) and M-CHS (73) rounded out the standings.

Junior Avaleena Nanaeto finished 13th for IHS in 24:33 and freshman Moriah Ashley was 14th in 25:03.  Senior Vanessa Gonzales (25:58) made it five Lady ’Cats in the top 20 as she placed 18th, while junior Lexy Young (29:21) earned 28th and freshman Lauren deKay (30:01) 30th overall.

“We even had a … family emergency for one of our runners,” noted Holley (junior Alannah Gomez was one of those absent), “so we had to pull up a junior-varsity runner to jump in … and she got a PR as well!  It was a great day all around for our girls; I’m really excited for this year and the future of the program.”

Up next, the 2A San Juan Basin Leaguers – Ignacio, Mancos, Dolores, as well as Challenge-absent Telluride and Ouray – will be the 2A-Region IV Championships currently slated for Friday, Oct. 9, at Confluence Park in Delta, where only the fortunate few will qualify for the State Championships, Oct. 17 at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs.

“From a numbers standpoint, missing a couple weeks on our season makes it … difficult to get an athlete prepared.  Especially when working with athletes that have never run before,” Holley said.  “But I think they’re in great shape; they’ve put in the work it takes to produce good times.  So we’ll show up and hopefully everybody’s feeling fresh and … have a good day.

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