Up to the ‘Challenge’: Valdez fourth in Pagosa

IHS harriers forego Ouray/Ridgway’s ‘Ramble’

Resulting from the Dallas Creek Project, authorized in 1968 as part of the large-scale Colorado River Storage Project (established 1956), Ridgway Reservoir was officially dammed in ’87, allowing for Ridgway State Park to develop around it.

Two years later, the park’s central Dutch Charlie site was opened, featuring the visitors’ center, a boat ramp and two campgrounds.  Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019, the area again served as the base for the Ouray/Ridgway-hosted ‘Ramble at the Reservoir’ cross-country races.

Originally scheduled to compete in the event’s 21st incarnation, held Friday afternoon, Sept. 20, Ignacio elected not to join harriers representing Aspen, Grand Junction Caprock Academy, Crested Butte Community School, Olathe and Hotchkiss, as well as fellow 2A San Juan Basin Leaguers OHS, Telluride, Mancos and Dolores for the girls’ 5K jaunt.

At the score-3 feature, Aspen—led by winner Kylie Kenny’s 22:29.46 and runner-up Kendall Clark’s 22:50.33—prevailed with a meet-low 7 (1-2-4) points.   MHS’ Grace Manning was the top SJBL finisher, placing seventh in 25:11.71.

The Lady ’Cats, however, would still see action that weekend as they instead focused on the next morning’s Pagosa Springs Cross-Country Challenge.  One of eleven schools represented in the high-school girls’ showcase on PSHS’ new Cloman Park course (the Ramble’s present route was first used in 2013), Ignacio’s entrants headed out at 10:15 a.m.

Before hustling back to IHS Gymnasium for varsity volleyball duty versus Telluride that afternoon, junior Charlize Valdez managed to place fourth out of 54 finishers in a time of 23 minutes, 24 seconds—trailing only Pagosa’s Nell Taylor (22:54), Sargent’s Kendra Sears (22:32) and now-2A Monticello, Utah’s Lily Long (22:30).

Long had placed fourth (in 21:02.8) at last fall’s UHSAA Class 1A State Championships as a freshman; as a junior, Sears took tenth (in 21:03.7) in Colorado’s Class 2A grand finale, while Taylor ended her freshman season 85th (21:53.7) in 3A.

4A Aztec, New Mexico’s Sierra Villanueva (24:26) rounded out the Challenge’s top five individuals.

Following La Jara-based 2A Centauri’s Abigail Sowards across the finish line, IHS sophomore Avaleena Nanaeto placed 14th in 25:49, and sophomore D’Vondra Garcia (31:17) came in 39th.  Adding some extra mileage to her base, Manning clocked 28:15—a fraction ahead of teammate Amaris Webb, who also clocked 28:15—and placed 25th.

Ignacio is slated to next run at Mancos’ Chicken Creek Challenge Saturday morning, Sept. 28, then Montezuma-Cortez’s Ancient Trails Invitational on Oct. 4, and the Oct. 11 Bloomfield (N.M.) Invitational.

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