Discussing the type of route runners entered in the 2018 Bayfield Invitational will have to negotiate, BHS head coach Josh Walton stressed that his own boys' and girls' teams will have to "run a smart race."
Not that they hadn't done exactly that their last time out, at the Sept. 8 Joe I. Vigil Invitational in Alamosa, but because the course will be about as otherworldly - compared to Alamosa's flat golf course - as possible.
"It's not going to be at Sauls Creek; it's going to be at Pine Valley Church, and it's a pretty brutal course," Walton said. "There's a lot of hills, not a lot of flat - it's pretty tough! So it's more about the kids...making sure they try to finish in that top-ten group, but not going out and trying to lead the race right off the bat."
"The first 1,200 meters is pretty much all uphill," he noted. "And the last, probably, six hundred is all downhill. So the kids that have anything left in the race could really close on people in that last six hundred; if you go out too strong, even though it's downhill it's going to be hard, to actually 'kick' down that hill."
Expected to attend are the Durango JV, Pagosa Springs, Mancos, Dolores, Ignacio (girls' team only), with at least one extra entry coming from Mesa County.
"Grand Junction's actually going to be here," said Walton. "They were scheduled to go to the Durango meet on Friday night, but then the Durango meet got canceled. And so ... they had all their (hotel) reservations and everything set up, so they gave us a call and asked if they could come!"
"So we've got a couple bigger schools coming, but it's not going to be a huge meet. It's a good way to get started, and hopefully we grow from there."
Middle-school competition is set to begin at 9 a.m., with the girls first to head out and the boys following at 9:30. The high-school girls will then take the starter's gun at 10 a.m., with the boys doing likewise at 10:40. And if enough people enter, Walton mentioned, a community race will start at 11:20.
"It's our first race to be hosting again," he said. "And we're hoping for a lot of support from the community. I know we have a lot of sports going on that day, so hopefully we get a lot of people out!"
Boys ninth in AlamosaLed by their two IHS student-athletes, BHS' boys took ninth overall at the Vigil with 319 points. Jonas Nanaeto finished 29th with a time of 17 minutes, 55.3 seconds, while Elco Garcia, Jr., was right behind in a 30th-place 17:56.60. Sophomore Zeb Shields placed 63rd in 18:59.4, while sophomore James Chenowith (20:23.2) and junior Rylan Ross (20:25.0) did their best Nanaeto/Garcia imitation and crossed the finish line 127th and 128th, respectively.
"I was really happy with the way everyone did on the boys' side," said Walton. "Having Elco and Jonas running right next to each other for pretty much the whole race ... kind of 'packing' up, and then Rylan and James did the same thing as my number-four and -five runners. So overall, my top five are really closing in on each other, getting their times closer and closer together."
Sophomore Ethan Cook also ran and finished 169th in 21:38.3. Freshman Royce Hinojosa came in 174th with a 21:43.4, freshman Michael Everett took 181st in 21:50.2, and freshman Liam Smith ended up 220th in 24:02.0.
Besting all 258 other entrants was 5A Littleton Dakota Ridge senior Austin Vancil, who clocked 15:43.7.
"The teams that beat us were some of the best teams in the state," Walton said. "The 3A schools ahead of us included Alamosa, The Classical Academy and Salida - three of the top-ranked teams in Colorado cross-country - so it was pretty impressive that we didn't finish too far behind them."
Out of 23 scoring teams, Dakota Ridge prevailed with a meet-low 35 points. SHS followed with 66, Alamosa settled for third with 95, with Colorado Springs-based TCA (116) and TVHS (124) rounding out the top five.
Unable to field a scoring quintet in Alamosa, the Wolverines' highest finisher in the girls' run was junior Claire Hufnagel, who came in 94th with a time of 24:34.5. Freshman Eli Ion finished 129th in 26:11.3, classmate Paige Porter was 158th in 27:21.1, and fellow frosh Brylee Connell took 203rd in 31:31.1.
"The girls ran really well," said Walton. "The ACT was that weekend so that took a couple, and then I had some others that just couldn't make the race, had a girl that was still kind of sick, so of nine girls I have on the team, only four were able to go."
"Paige, Eli and Brylee.they're all freshmen, they're just learning how to run a 5K. They've ran for three years now, Paige and Eli, but they're learning how to run 5K instead of the middle-school race."
Winning the Vigil was TCA senior Kaylee Thompson. Her 19:06.4 not only helped the Titans to the team title but was 4.4 ticks quicker than Thompson Valley junior Kenadi Krueger, and 27.4 faster than TVHS freshman Olivia Krueger. In the 19-team standings, TVHS actually tied TCA with 41 points, but Classical earned first place due to a higher-placing sixth (and seventh) runner. With 123 points, Pagosa Springs earned third place while Dakota Ridge (154) edged out Alamosa (168) for fourth.
BHS Invitational course breakdownRegarding the course for the Bayfield Invitational, Walton said that runners will depart from right behind Pine Valley Church, located just north of BHS on County Road 501.
"They have a barn there," he noted. "And Scott Kujath has taken a tractor and really cleared out a nice starting line for us."
"The first 400 meters are all uphill, and then they level out a little bit for like 200, 300. Then they have to go up another hill that's another 400, probably, to the top of it - they run up literally, pretty much, to the top of Dove Ranch."
Runners will then descend and run almost right behind some of that subdivision's homes, and follow a trail a while over state land and deal with some rolling hills.
"Then they have to go up another hill after they've completed about two miles, they're going to get hit with another, probably, 800-meter hill - before they get to run ... relatively flat and some downhill."
And even more downhill, as mentioned earlier, to the finish.
Walton noted that because of some of the teams set to attend, the Wolverines may not have as a great a "home-field advantage," but their advance knowledge of the route should come in quite handy.
"Our bonus is we practice on it once a week; the kids are used to running on it. The kids know that it's hard but they're going to go in with a good mindset on Saturday," Walton said, "whereas a lot of the teams coming, they know it's going to be a hilly course, but when the kids walk it, it could have a mental factor when they see some they have to run!"