COLORADO SPRINGS — Lauren Gregory, a sophomore phenom at Fort Collins, entered Saturday’s cross country State Championships at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs as the 5A defending champion. She was undefeated on the season and relatively untouched.
Gregory was projected to win and did in dominant fashion with a time of 18:55, 30 seconds ahead of Fairview’s Maya Browning and the field.
What wasn’t expected was for her teammates to join her on the podium as champions, but the Lambkins surprised with 113 points, five points ahead of second place Monarch. See the full results here.
All Fort Collins had to do was unseat a Monarch team attempting to become the first 5A girls cross country program to win four state titles in a row. Fort Collins, 2010 state champions and a top-two team finisher at the State Meet every year since 2007, had placed second to Monarch the previous three seasons.
The Lambkins certainly faced a daunting task, especially after a relatively shaky regular season by the program’s lofty standards.
“We were not picked to win today,” Fort Collins first year coach Mike Callor, who won one boys and one girl’s state title at Dakota Ridge, admitted. “We knew we had it in us, but the kind of season we had. We started out really rocky and it was tough. It was the toughest state title I’ve ever been a part of honestly. We were hoping that all those finished feeling they had given it everything they had. If they did that and ran the plan, something special was certainly possible.”
Gregory, seniors Heather Holt (8th place), Devynn Miller (21st place), Kiri Michell (50th), and junior Claire Hooker (54th) brought home their 7th state championship in girls cross country, third most of any school in the state behind The Classical Academy (10 titles) and Lake County (9).
Gregory was ecstatic about the team crown.
“It means so much more than the individual title,” Gregory said. “It’s incredible to know my team was right there with me and they get to celebrate with me. It’s amazing.”
In class 4A, Mountain View’s girls felt they had some unfinished business of their own. The Mountain Lions, one of the favorites to win the 2013 crown, finished fourth as cross-town rivals Thompson Valley won their 4th girls title in the past eight seasons. In 2011, Mountain View placed second as Thompson Valley won.
The Mountain Lions finally overtook their nemesis as three of their girls finished ahead of Thompson Valley’s number one. Mountain View, with 127 points, held off Thompson Valley (139), Palmer Ridge (144), and Evergreen (144).
Lauren Offerman (4th place), Riley Cooney (6th place), Abby Stewart (14th), Katie Benner (65th), and Alison Peters (66th) led the ladies from Loveland to their first state championship since 2004, and third title overall in the sport.
“To me personally, I could not be more excited for that group of young ladies,” Mountain View coach Kevin Clark said. “Those girls as freshman finished second to Thompson Valley. Our seniors, they were our backbone to make sure that we never lost sight. They wanted a shot at it too and I couldn’t be more excited for that group of girls.”
Air Academy junior Katie Rainsberger, after coming within a second of winning state two years ago and finishing second behind Niwot’s Elise Cranny in 2012 and 2013, captured her first crown in a time of 18:50. Denver North’s Kayla Young placed second in 19:03.
“It’s more joy than redemption,” Rainsberger said of winning the title. “Losing to Elise Cranny isn’t something that one should be ashamed of. She’s a role model, someone I can look up to, and we’re really good friends,” Rainsberger said of the Stanford Cardinal freshman.
In another fantastic team finish, Alamosa’s girls pulled a mild upset over 3A defending champion Salida, 91-95, as Mean Moose freshman Tara Sowards outleaned Salida’s Sydney Fesenmeyer in a time of 21:22.8 to 21:22.9 for sixth place. The state title was Alamosa’s first in girls cross country since they won 4A in 2009.
Estes Park sophomore Lily Tomasula-Martin (20:31) held off Basalt’s Hailey Swirbul (20:35) for the 3A individual championship.
In 2A, West Grand senior Tabor Scholl, a multiple time state champion in track, was looking for her first cross country title since winning 3A as a freshman in 2011. Scholl (19:59) delivered in dominant fashion as Lyons’ CeAnn Udovich placed second in 20:20.
“Winning it freshman year was such a privilege and an honor and I was really grateful,” Scholl said. “Working for it for two years just makes this year so much more special to know that I put in the work and it finally paid off.”
Lyons, for all their success in cross country and track, had never won a state title in girls cross country. That changed Saturday as the Lions held off Telluride by a slim margin, 20-24.