Geberkidane nabs course record, 5A cross country title

State cross country

(Jordan Morey)

COLORADO SPRINGS -- It was one year ago that Denver East was celebrating its first state cross country champion after Ashi Geberkidane brought home the title in the Class 5A state meet.

The moment was bittersweet for younger brother Cerake Geberkidane, who had hoped to finish right behind Ashi but took third overall. On Saturday at Norris Penrose Event Center, Cerake did that goal one better.

The Angels senior set a course record with a time of 15 minutes, 48.2 seconds in dominating the 5A state boys meet. Geberkidane crossed the finish line nearly 41 seconds before second-place Zachary Alhamra of Pine Creek to earn a title of his own.

“I came back to redeem myself. I really wanted to get first and second (in 2012) but I didn’t,” Cerake said. “I trained really hard and really wanted to win it to continue it on in the family.”

Ashi Geberkidane is currently a freshman at Harvard and Cerake joked his brother was probably doing homework, but he was looking forward to making a phone call to him later.

The Mountain Vista boys, led by senior Connor Weaver’s third-place finish and four runners in the top 26, defended its 5A boys team title with 110 points. Fort Collins was second with 179.

“It’s different because all year we were talking about how there was a big target on their back and they knew it coming in,” Mountain Vista coach Jonathan Dalby said. “In years past we’ve been chasing that target on other teams, especially teams like Fort Collins.

“I told them they needed to race not like they were going out there just to defend a state title but like they were getting out to try and win it.”

Thornton’s Joshua Johnson and Sean Paiz rounded out the top five individuals.

In the 5A girls meet, Fort Collins freshman Lauren Gregory earned the top spot by 22 seconds, finishing in 18:36.9. Boulder’s Erin McLaughlin was second, followed by Grandview’s Erin Norton, Fairview’s Maya Browning and Monarch’s Ashley Litoff.

The state’s biggest stage didn’t faze Gregory, who said she wasn’t any more nervous than usual.

“It was just race nerves,” Gregory said. “I didn’t have any expectations or real pressure to do anything. I just felt like ‘let’s go do what I want to do.’”

Monarch clinched its third consecutive state championship as three Coyotes finished in the top eight. Litoff, Claire Green (seventh) and Kaitlyn Benner (8th) stuck together throughout the course and helped Monarch hold off Fort Collins for the third year in a row.

“That was the plan, to try to stick as close as we could to each other,” Litoff said. “At the end, when we got it, it was just really satisfying.”

Monarch had six runners place in the top 27 and finished with 49 points.