The last of Telluride’s historic mines closed in 1978, but the Miners have struck gold again.

With a cross country program founded in 2008, Telluride High has already won three state championships as a team in Class 2A. After just two seasons in the books, a contingent of Ty Williams (first), Colten Rogers (sixth) and Nathan Loomis (eighth) sealed Telluride's initial title. The girls have taken home the ultimate prize the past two seasons.

Keith Hampton and his wife, Alicia, started the program with humble beginnings. Erin Thompson joined the first team as a senior, not entirely sure what she was getting herself into.

“It was silly, because when I started I was really not much of a runner,” said Thompson, now in her first season as the cross country coach. “I had done track a little bit, but cross country was something new and very intimidating to me. I just fell in love with it.”

Keith Hampton retired from coaching this summer after putting the finishing touches on an exceptional career—the Lady Miners took home the 2A state runner-up trophy in track and field despite not even having a home track. When he took the reins in 2006, Telluride was coming off a conference meet the previous season in which they failed to score a single point.

My, how times have changed.

“They’ve been wonderful,” senior Soleil Gaylord said of Keith and Alicia Hampton. “We were really lucky to have them as coaches. They’ve led us to success. We also have a really cohesive, high morale team. Every day we come to practice ready to do our best and we push each other and are all positive with each other.”

Thompson, who will be joined by Lauren Ross and Lesley Terry on the staff, was the middle school track coach last season. She is thrilled at how far Telluride running has come.

“When we started we barely had enough girls and boys to even create a team and we were by no means fast,” she said with a laugh. “It was really a beginner group. The athletes we have running now are amazing.

“I’m just blown away by the heights they’ve reached. I never could’ve imagined our little cross country team in Telluride reaching the status they have.”

In a town well over 8,000 feet of elevation, the Miners have soared with a few individual state champions over the years as well. On the boys side, Ty Williams (2009-2011) was one of five males in state history to win at least three cross country titles. Keith Hampton’s daughter, Rachel, corralled a championship of her own in 2012 as a senior.

(Courtesy of Telluride HS)

Gaylord could follow in their footsteps. The senior has earned seventh, third and fifth place showings at the state meet. A fall crown has proved elusive for her as an individual thus far, which is just about the only item missing in her trophy case.

The long-striding senior has competed at the World Mountain Running Championships for the U.S. Junior team twice, and even claimed the junior event at the 2017 Snowshoe National Championships (Bend, Ore.) and World Championships (Saranac Lake, N.Y.). She’s also a two-time defending state champion in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs.

“My heart is — more so than track and cross country even — in mountain running,” she said. “I’ve done it my whole life.”

All the training Gaylord does in the off-seasons should put her on the right foot in 2017. She is planning to continue her career with a collegiate program, but before she moves on the hope is that the Telluride girls can make it three in a row.

It won’t be easy, not when sidekick Maya Ordonez is missing from the lineup this fall. The junior placed seventh at the state cross country meet the past two seasons, but will be off to Spain in an exchange program for a year.

Nonetheless, Telluride has established a culture that brews success.

Only three runners, rather than five like the other classifications, count towards the point tally at the 2A state meet and Gaylord is confident returning state qualifier Isabelle Bennett and others can step up to replace Ordonez and Alyssa Pack, who graduated. St. Mary’s, Paonia and Lyons look to be serious classification contenders.

As for the highest division, two running legends in Brie Oakley of Grandview and Lauren Gregory of Fort Collins have graduated. Nonetheless, 5A remains a gauntlet with Broomfield (7th) and Mountain Vista (13th) returning lineups that are nearly intact from teams that placed well at the Nike National Championships last December in Portland, Oregon.

Broomfield, the two-time defending champions, nipped the Golden Eagles by seven points at state in 2016. They will be laden with seniors, while Mountain Vista has a youthful group bursting with talent. The Front Range League has conquered nine 5A championships in a row (Broomfield, Fort Collins, Monarch).

In 4A, Battle Mountain has everyone back and is favored to win their second straight team title. The Huskies’ Elizabeth Constien (runner-up) and Naomi Harding (third) are among a handful of harriers with individual championship hopes. Durango, Air Academy and Palmer Ridge are among the challengers.

Peak to Peak has perhaps one of the best one-two punches of any small school in America in juniors Quinn McConnell (one track title, one cross title) and Anna Shults (three track titles). It would be quite a feat to stop the Pumas from defending their 3A crown, but The Classical Academy and Steamboat Springs should feature excellent lineups as well.

Girls Cross Country preview

Important dates

  • Regular season begins: Aug. 24
  • Regional meets: Oct. 19-20

State championships:

  • 5A/4A/3A/2A: Oct. 28, Norris Penrose Event Center, Colorado Springs, CO

Defending champions:

  • 5A: Broomfield
  • 4A: Battle Mountain
  • 3A: Peak to Peak
  • 2A: Telluride

Returning all-state runners:

  • 5A:
    • First Team: Jenna Fitzsimmons, Mountain Vista, So.; Ivy Gonzales, Broomfield, Sr.; Madison Mooney, Broomfield, Sr.; Caroline Robbins, Grandview, Sr.; Brynn Siles, Legacy, So.
    • Second Team: Caroline Eck, Mountain Vista, Jr.; Megan Koch, Highlands Ranch, Sr.; Sarah O’Sullivan, Mountain Vista, So.; Michelle Renner, Dakota Ridge, Sr.
    • Honorable Mention: Carley Bennett, Lakewood, Jr.; Isabella Bowland, Fairview, Sr.; Claudia Burgess, Boulder, Sr.; Isalina Colsman, Regis Jesuit, So.; Civianna Gallegos, Arvada West, Sr.; Hailey Leader, Monarch, Sr.; Emily Mitchem, Broomfield, Sr.; Katelyn Mitchem, Broomfield, Sr.; Shannon Osoba, Rock Canyon, Jr.; Zoe Simmons, Mountain Vista, Jr.; Laura Thompson, Broomfield, Sr.
  • 4A:
    • First Team: Tiya Chamberlin, Wheat Ridge, Jr.; Elizabeth Constien, Battle Mountain, Sr.; Naomi Harding, Battle Mountain, Jr.; Addi Iken, Littleton, Sr.; Kasey Klocek, Green Mountain, So.; Kenadi Krueger, Thompson Valley, So.
    • Second Team: Joslin Blair, Eagle Valley, So.; Madeleine Bonneau, Palmer Ridge, Sr.; Madeleine Burns, Durango, So.; Riley Geldean, Centaurus, So.; Rachel Goodrich, Golden, So.; Keely Jones, Valor Christian, Jr.; Sophia Maeda, Mead, Sr.
    • Honorable Mention: Anna Busath, Palmer Ridge, So.; Katie Cole, Palmer Ridge, Jr.; Avery Doan, Eagle Valley, Jr.; Morgan Hykes, Windsor, Jr.; Madi Kenyon, Roosevelt, Jr.; Alex Raichart, Battle Mountain, Sr.; Lauren Zoe Baker, Silver Creek, Sr.
  • 3A:
    • First Team: Winter Boese, Steamboat Springs, Jr.; Hannah Ellis, Frontier Academy, Sr.; Quinn McConnell, Peak to Peak, Jr.; Hannah McReavy, St. Mary’s, Sr.; Anna Shults, Peak to Peak, Jr.
    • Second Team: Tiana Bradfield, Peak to Peak, Jr.; Ruby Brown, Salida, So.; McKenzie Elliott, The Classical Academy, Sr.; Katie Flaherty, The Classical Academy, Jr.; Tara Sowards, Alamosa, Sr.; Chantae Steele, The Classical Academy, Jr.
    • Honorable Mention: Maggi Congdon, Steamboat Springs, So.; Sadie Cotton, Steamboat Springs, Sr.; Lilly Lavier, Alamosa, So.; Ashten Loeks, Elizabeth, Jr.; Kika Napierkowski, Holy Family, Sr.; Anna Ponzio, Colorado Academy, Sr.; Elle Triem, Peak to Peak, Jr.
  • 2A:
    • First Team: Soleil Gaylord, Telluride, Sr.; Sydney Petersen, Crested Butte, Sr.; Chloe Veilleux, Soroco, Jr.
    • Second Team: Kayla Carter, Custer County, Jr.; Helen Cross, Nederland, So. Sarah Davidson, Nederland, Sr.; Courtney Jenson, Wiggins, Sr.; Emma Schaefer, Shining Mountain Waldorf, Jr.
    • Honorable Mention: Caroline Benney, Lake County, Sr.; Bria Johnson, The Vanguard School, So.; Kaylee Kearse, Peyton, Sr.; Samantha O’Brien, Clear Creek, Sr.; Maria O’Neal, Crested Butte, Sr.; CeAnn Udovich, Lyons, Sr.