COLORADO SPRINGS — What Kidus Begashaw accomplished Saturday was almost unfair.
Begashaw, a senior from Lotus School for Excellence in Aurora, easily outpaced the competition to win the 2A Boys Cross Country State Championship by 30 seconds with a mark of 16:17.
Facing runners that had been training to win a state title for many years, Begashaw came quite literally from nowhere, becoming a state champion after only discovering distance running six months ago.
"I saw (2019 state champ Isaac Roberts of Lyons) do this last year, and I told myself, I want to do that," Begashaw said. "I said I'm going to work hard for that, train hard, and now I became a state champion."
Begashaw also became the first Lotus runner ever to become a state placer, let alone a state champion.
Before discovering running, his passion had always been basketball and soccer. Playing as a midfielder in soccer, Begashaw learned he had superior speed and endurance.
Now, after trying cross country and succeeding at a high level, Begashaw's post-high school goals have changed from soccer to running.
"Now I'm going to focus on running in college," Begashaw said. "I mean, I'm Ethiopian. It's in my blood."
Much like Begashaw, Vanguard's Ella Johnson came out of nowhere to emerge as the 2A girls cross country state champ, utilizing a late kick in a remarkable comeback win.
For much of the race, Johnson trailed Buena Vista's Zaila Smith and Peyton's Eowyn Dalbec, who were running side-by-side in what was shaping up to be a potentially exciting finish to the girls' 2A title race.
"They had such a lead on me, and they were so so far ahead, I thought I was done," Johnson said. "This is super unexpected."
With 800 meters to go, Johnson managed to make up ground late, climbing the final hill before the finish line to win by a remarkable nine seconds over Dalbec with a mark of 19:34, her season best.
"I thought I wasn't ever going to get close," Johnson said. "But then they started to slow down, and then I said to myself, I'm so close. I need to catch them, and I did."
With the win, Johnson became Vanguard's first ever state champion.
A first-time team champions was also crowned Saturday.
On the girls' side, Buena Vista claimed its first team title, led by third-place finisher Mallory Salazar, and flanked by three finishers in the top 12.
Heritage Christian won its third boys state championship, barely edging Lyons by five points to win the crown. Despite not having a single finisher in the top 10, four runners in the top 30 helped deliver the crown.