COLORADO SPRINGS — Paul Roberts, though it may seem that way when considering all he’s accomplished, isn’t superhuman.
But, when it comes to the Class 2A state cross country meet the past four seasons, Roberts is perfect. He’s a perfect 4-for-4 in winning state individually and, on top of that, he’s 4-for-4 in helping Lyons to team crowns.
In that measure, the senior might not be superhuman, but his results are spectacular. So spectacular that, throughout Colorado history, no male runner before him had ever won four individual state championships in cross country. Not Adam Goucher, who won the Foot Locker National High School Cross Country Championship in 1993 before a storied collegiate and pro career. Not Bret Schoolmeester. Not Kevin Williams. Not Evan Appel.
Also, although 2A is the smallest classification in cross country, consider the fact that Roberts did have either the first or second fastest time for any classification at the state meet during each of his four seasons.
On Saturday at the Norris Penrose Event Center, the senior ran a time of 15:33, a 17-second betterment of the 3A champion (Ben Butler of Skyview Academy) and the 4A champion (Tanner Norman of The Classical Academy), who both ran 15:50. The 5A champion, Isaac Green of Monarch, finished in 16:03. At least this season, the best 2A runner was the best runner, period.
For Roberts, four individual crowns seemed in the realm of possibility pretty much from the time he first donned the Lyons singlet, but four team championships just adds to his legacy.
“Honestly I’ve had that goal for awhile,” he said of being a four-time solo champ. “The team thing is even more important to me. It’s been tough every year. I’m a little more excited for the team. The individual is just a cherry on top.”
Roberts has always led the way, but it’s not like he hasn’t had help. After all, cross country is, first and foremost, a team sport. Joel Such, another senior and a teammate of Roberts since sixth grade track, was the runner-up Saturday in 16:33. He was eighth at the state meet as a freshman, third as a sophomore, 21st as a junior, despite battling injuries, and now the runner-up.
“We’ve been together for a really long time,” Roberts said. “He’s a great guy to train with, a great guy to race with, and I wouldn’t want to race for anybody else.”
The final scorer for Lyons on Saturday was Landon Milbrath, a sophomore who came through with a 14th place showing.
Even though only three runners score in Class 2A, compared to five in the bigger divisions, Paul’s dad Mark, the Lyons coach, was equally proud of their fourth finisher, senior Cameron Cross (22nd).
“He was the glue for our next group after Paul and Joel,” the elder Roberts said. “He didn’t score for us, but he was the unsung hero of this group.”
For Lyons, the school had never won state in boys cross country before Roberts and Such showed up. Now, led by Paul, a recent Colorado State-Pueblo commit, they are a dynasty.
“We hope we can continue to build off the culture that has been established by this group,” Mark Roberts said.
As Lyons has owned 2A for years, in 5A, the elite team has been Mountain Vista. The Golden Eagles spread their wings again Saturday in winning their fourth consecutive state championship. In doing so, they became the first-ever program to win four 5A boys cross country crowns in a row.
In 2014 they became the first to win three in a row, as well, so this season cemented their place in history to an even further extent.
“I have to give credit to the people before us,” senior Paxton Smith, a member of all four titles teams, said. “They really developed the dynasty. It’s something special.”
In Smith’s estimation, this was the best Vista team ever. With an absolutely dominant 50-point total, well ahead of Fort Collins (110), he seems to be right. Smith (fifth place), Alex Fu (eighth), and Ryan Currie (26th) proved to be a special senior class. Throw in junior Joshua Romine (sixth) and sophomores Parker Mackay (11th) and Shayan Zarrin (22nd) and the Golden Eagles proved far too much for anyone to handle in 5A, once again.
The individual race provided more drama as Monarch junior Isaac Green outkicked and outlasted Broomfield senior Jake Mitchem by the slimmest of margins, 16:03 to 16:04. Steven Goldy of Arapahoe was third in 16:07.
For Green, a cross country state title backed the idea that he has become 5A’s best after also winning the 1,600 meters in track last spring as a sophomore. His speed paid off again.
In the second largest classification, a number of individual contenders seemed to have a real chance at winning it all.
Golden’s Alec Hornecker, Montrose’s Ian Meek, Widefield’s Maximilliano Martinez, Thompson Valley’s Jarrett Thollot, and The Classical Academy’s Tanner Norman all toed the line with title hopes.
After a torrid early pace set by Meek, who had at least a couple of seconds on the field through the mile, the large chase pack eventually caught the junior. Then, Norman emerged as the champion with a 15:50, just two seconds in front of Hornecker. Martinez (3rd), Meek (4th), and Thollot (6th) all capped off strong seasons with high finishes.
The team competition, as expected, came down to Durango and Palmer Ridge as they established themselves as the powers this year from the get-go.
The Demons, third place in 2014 and with seven seniors comprising the varsity, beat the defending champion Bears 73-75. It was the team’s seventh state title in boys cross country, but first since 1999. They are now tied with Pueblo Centennial for the third most championships by any school and only trail Fort Collins (8) and Lake County (19).
Benjamin Lachelt (5th), David Moenning (10th), Nicholas Turco (14th), William Chandler (19th), and Jordan Helms (25th) led the way.
Ben Butler, a senior at Skyview Academy and another highly rated runner nationally, won back-to-back state titles in commanding fashion with a time of 15:50. He also finished fourth as a sophomore and was the 3,200 meter state champion last spring.
Salida senior Taylor Stack (16:16) was the 3A runner-up for the third time in a row. He was seventh as a freshman. No surprises from those two.
As for team standings, Alamosa, for the second straight year, handled runner-up Frontier Academy and everyone else for a seemingly easy state crown. After returning five of their top seven runners from 2014, the Maroons tallied 55 points and ran away from Frontier (118).
Isaiah DeLaCerda (3rd), Caleb Palmer (6th), Miguel Mateo Baltazar (10th), Caleb Berlinger (14th), and Oscar Martinez (22nd) were the five scorers this year. Perhaps a budding dynasty, Alamosa will return their entire varsity in 2016.