Excellent Eighth: Lady ’Cats solid at State

Freshman, senior pace third-year unit in Colo. Springs

Last fall, actions spoke louder than words for Ignacio Girls’ Cross-Country.

“We like to hang out and run hard,” explained Avaleena Nanaeto. “When we’re calm, we’re not that talkative … but then we get pumped, ready to go. It’s a beautiful crew.”

And on a beautiful afternoon one coronavirus-crazed year later, the Lady Bobcats’ efforts Saturday, Oct. 17, out in El Paso County at the CHSAA State Championships showed just how lovely the program’s looking through three years of rebirth.

Still stoked by an incredible first-place performance at the previous Friday’s Class 2A-Region IV Championships held in Delta, the squad not only qualified as a team – also a first – but concluded the 2020 campaign posting a top-ten result.

Paced by freshman Maci Barnes, the San Juan Basin League’s clear-cut Rookie of the Year (if such an award existed), and bolstered by two-time State qualifier Charlize Valdez plus three-timer Nanaeto, IHS placed eighth with an adjusted score-4 total of 147 points.

By comparison, Peyton placed seventh with 122, while Buena Vista bagged the title with a race-low 31. Lake County (41) left for Leadville with the runner-up hardware, and Lyons (93) loped past Colorado Springs Christian (98) into third.

After clocking a third-place 20:44.11 at speed-enhancing Confluence Park, Barnes battled out a 22:35.90 on the more challenging Norris-Penrose Event Center route and captured 27th place.

“When we’re running I always try to tell her ‘Don’t look back! Don’t look back!’” Valdez said. “I had a feeling that she would be up with us.”

A senior running her final prep-level long-distance race, Valdez crossed the finish line next with a 50th-place 23:52.20 and steady junior Alannah Gomez re-assumed vital No. 3 status with a 53rd-place 24:00.40.

Nanaeto, who’d out-legged Gomez by 1.72 seconds at regionals as the pair placed 21st and 22nd, completed her junior year clocking 24:51.30 in Colorado Springs and earning 75th, while senior Vanessa Gonzales – like Nanaeto, one of Ignacio’s 2018 ‘founders’ still on the varsity – placed 90th in 27:15.30.

“A lot of the meets in the area here are really hilly, have a lot of dirt,” head coach Daniel Holley said, comparing the NPEC circuit to similar layouts found in the southwest. “So it was awesome!”

Colorado Springs-area junior standout Ella Johnson of The Vanguard School earned the individual crown in 19:34.50, with Peyton junior Eowyn Dalbec (19:43.70) and BVHS junior Mallory Salazar (20:19.90) her nearest threats. Junior Sophia Bull (20:21.50) of Denver Christian – which, like Vanguard, did not qualify for team scoring – finished fourth, and LCHS’ sister duo of sophomore Adele (20:25.70) and freshman Rose (20:30.40) Horning took fifth and sixth, respectively.

No one neared the 2A girls’ NPEC-record time of 18:52.00, set in ’17 by Nederland then-sophomore Helen Cross, now a freshman on the Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.; NCAA Div. III) roster.


Barnes’ time at Region IV ranked behind only Crested Butte Community School sophomore Ruby Pendy (20:31.58) and Carbondale-based Colorado Rocky Mountain School junior Morgan Karow (20:39.09). Valdez took 11th in 21:47.57, followed by Nanaeto (21st, 23:00.74), Gomez (22nd, 23:02.46) and Gonzales (42nd, 24:39.16) – all making for an adjusted score-4 meet-low of 51 points.

CRMS (69), Kremmling West Grand (71) and Hotchkiss (87) claimed the other State berths.

Pendy took tenth at State with a 21:09.70, but Karow was unable to compete and did not take the starter’s gun.

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