Fri Sep 10th, 2021
Special to the Drum
When half of his girls’ roster finally arrived at the team’s Pueblo lodgings, Ignacio head coach Daniel Holley’s clock showed the time to be roughly 2 a.m. Or about 11.5 hours before the Lady Bobcats were to run in Colorado Springs as entrants in the Sept. 3, 2021, Cheyenne Mountain Stampede’s Class 2A Varsity Girls’ feature.
Spent from having just played JV and/or varsity volleyball inside IHS Gymnasium against 3A Montezuma-Cortez, then hopping straight into transportation for the long drive out to Pueblo – and ultimately El Paso – County, sophomores Maci Barnes and Darlyn Lechuga, plus juniors Laci Brunson and Harmony Reynolds received as warm a witching-hour welcome as possible.
“Cold pizza,” Holley recalled with a grin. “That’s what we had left over. Then I sent ’em to bed and said, ‘Y’all sleep in; I’ll see you at 11 a.m.’ It was a fast and furious evening, but that’s what we do here; we make it work.”
Pepperoni-powered and relatively rested, the Lady ’Cats had little problem attacking the rugged Norris-Penrose Event Center/Bear Creek Park course – which many of them had first tested at last season’s CHSAA State Championships. Brunson, however, was not amongst them.
“I thought it was supposed to be, like, a flat course; that’s what my teammates told me,” she recalled, trying not to laugh. “Then I showed up here and … it’s NOT flat.”
Battling heat and hills alike, Brunson – who, as IHS Volleyball’s varsity libero, had probably hit the deck against M-CHS more than any other player and thus taxed her frame to its fullest – nonetheless emerged as Ignacio’s No. 4 finisher, always a crucial role in a score-4 meet.
Clocking 28 minutes, 36.7 seconds, she placed 57th overall as IHS – even lacking both Moriah and Zoey Ashley – accumulated an adjusted 110 points and snagged sixth place out of 11 scoring (and 17 programs overall, represented by 83 finishers) teams. Barnes paced the squad in a 14th-place 24:07.1, and senior Avaleena Nanaeto crossed next in a 32nd-place 25:32.5.
“That was hard, a little bit … but it was good; I felt good today,” said Nanaeto, ultra-familiar with the route as a three-time State qualifier now making her fourth appearance on site. “I was like, ‘Don’t go too fast, wait until you get to the big hill and then pick it up a little bit.’”
“We are trying to get her here a fifth time; that is our team goal,” Holley declared, “and her individual goal.”
Lauren deKay was IHS’ No. 3 finisher, taking 39th place in 26:01.1, and Reynolds placed 59th in 28:47.9 after running alongside Brunson for most of the race.
“I did pretty good; I kind of lost my pace at the very end, but it was hard … very tiring,” Reynolds said. “But I pushed through it … and the view was pretty!”
Senior Alannah Gomez finished 61st in 28:57.8, and Lechuga ended up 73rd in 32:05.5.
Earning the team title was Colorado Springs Christian, accumulating a meet-low tally of 28 points. Despite a four-runner pack finishing 26th-29th individually, Buena Vista had to settle for second with their 38, and Fort Collins Heritage Christian Academy, also tallying 38, ranked third due to having a lower-placing No. 5 runner.
Golden View Classical Academy (92 points) and San Juan Basin Leaguers Mancos (109) rounded out the top five.
Individually, BVHS’ Zaila Smith won in 20:14.4 with GVCA’s Eliana Caucutt finishing second in 20:40.2. Third place went to CSCS’ Elle Stevens (20:57.6) and fourth to Crested Butte’s Ruby Pendy (21:30.4).
“After the week we had – the first week of school – where we had a 95-degree day on Monday, followed by a rainy Wednesday afternoon, and you know how the travel goes. Just getting in the groove again is amazing,” Holley said. “And look at this atmosphere! Beautiful weather, the mountains, and the runners … they’re all smiling and happy – though everyone’s probably super-exhausted in the best way possible.”
The Lady ’Cats will next compete Sat., Sept. 11, in Alamosa at the Joe I. Vigil Invitational upon Cattails Golf Course’s grounds, then travel to Bayfield on Sept. 18 for the BHS Invitational. “High altitudes, tough meets — we’re going to get in shape and go for it!” exclaimed Holley.