ARVADA — There were a couple of significant changes during the annual cross country Wildcat Invitational hosted by Arvada West High School.
First, races began at 8:30 a.m. with the idea to beat the afternoon heat. With Jeffco Public Schools’ high schools all on remote learning on Fridays it was more feasible to have a morning start.
The second change was a name change. The Wildcat Invitational was renamed the Durden Invitational this year. A-West decided to honor Benji and Amie Durden, both have been very impactful on the running community in Colorado. Benji Durden was 2nd at the U.S. Olympic Trails back in 1980. If not for the U.S. boycotting the Olympic games in Moscow that year, Durden would have run for U.S. at the Olympics.
One thing that was the same was Dakota Ridge’s Jacob White crossing the finish-line first. The Dakota Ridge senior won the boys race in a time of 15 minutes, 55 seconds. Ralston Valley senior James Ramey placed 2nd, more than 50 seconds behind White.
However, White wasn’t completely trilled with his time on the course run at Stenger Soccer Complex in Arvada.
“I wasn’t happy with it,” White said of his sub-16 minute time. “I have been kind of off for the last couple of months. I feel myself getting back on track. Hopefully next week I’ll get that low 15-minute time.”
White has his sights on a fourth straight appearance at the state meet coming up Oct. 17 at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. White has finished in the Class 5A Top-6 individually the past two years, along with helping the Eagles to back-to-back 5A team titles.
The senior and one of the top distance runners in the state does give a lot of credit to former teammates like Austin Vancil (University of Colorado) and Connor Ohlson (Air Force Academy).
“It has been very helpful,” White said of his experiences of back-to-back team 5A team state title at Dakota Ridge. “I’m so grateful. I would never be where I’m at today with those guys (Austin Vancil and Connor Ohlson). Without them none of this would have happened.”
Ralston Valley did edge Dakota Ridge for the team title at the Durden Invitational. Ralston Valley seniors James Ramey, Jack Donze, Ethan Grolnic and Aiden Logan all finished Top-10.
On the girls side, Standley Lake senior Sophia Abernethy claimed another individual crown this season with a time of 20:17.8. D’Evelyn girls won the team title with sophomore Jayden Miller, seniors Sonja Morin and Kati Livingood finishing Top-10.
Coming up quickly is the 5A and 4A Jeffco League Cross Country Championships. The 4A Jeffco League championships is scheduled for Oct. 1 at Stoney Creek Golf Course. The 5A Jeffco League championships will run the following day on Oct. 2 at Stoney Creek.
It has been a different season with new protocols and restrictions.
“It has been difficult,” White said of the cross country season during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Honestly, there is no excuses for me. I just have to go out there and work on the process.”