COLORADO SPRINGS — Cross country coaches by their very nature are unique individuals.
Never more are their odd little quirks more on display than before the state meet. They can sit and analyze the seed times and predict/guess where they might finish based on how everything stacks up on a sheet of paper.
First year Holy Family coach Charles Shapiro, who has a bit of mad scientist in him, was one of the many coaches hard at work the night before the state meets at Colorado Springs’ Norris Penrose Event Center trying to figure out where his Tigers fit into the Class 3A mix.
“With the girls, I didn’t think they could get second place. I thought if they had the perfect day that they could be third and before the race I had them sixth, but all those teams from 2-6 were very close,” said Shapiro, whose girls proved him wrong.
The Tigers, without a single runner in the Top 20 on Saturday afternoon, still managed to run as a pack and by virtue of their top five scoring runners in the top 38 positions took home second place with 113 points behind The Classical Academy’s 65. The Tigers finished just ahead of Basalt (121), Aspen (123) and Faith Christian (128).
“They ran unbelievable and the reason why we did so well was because of our depth,” said Shapiro, whose boys team finished third. “Madi (Tapp), Alyssa (Wells) and Evie (Boyd) all ran together. Alyssa Jany had a tough start and she came on at the end and it was the depth.
“Summer (Norwell) ran out of her mind, 20:46 on this course is insane. I couldn’t be more proud of both the boys and the girls.”
With the new race structure set up in four 25 person waves every 45 seconds to maintain proper social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols, the idea of partnering up and running as a pack was quickly out the window. The Tigers did have some good fortune on their side with two runners in the first wave and four in the second that allowed them to run together though.
“All season long we were running hills at the end of workouts, so they were used to running hills when they were tired,” said Shapiro, who knew the state course would present them with those same issues. “Then you get someone like Alyssa (Wells), who might be one of the best pure athletes I have ever seen, she had a broken hand at the start of the season. She was in zero shape and she progressed to really running fabulously today.
“I just gave them a few tips for today. I didn’t want to overload them and stress them out too much.”
Norwell finished 23rd overall in 20 minutes, 46.4 seconds to lead the Tigers. Then the rest of the team was all within a minute of her time. Wells (21:06.9, 28th), Tapp (21:07.2, 29th), Boyd (21:07.7, 30th), Elizabeth Boselli (21:21.5, 38th) and Jany (21:40.8, 45th) rounded out the team that was bringing home some hardware.
On the boys side, senior Jack Culp culminated his prep career with his best state finish. He cracked the 17 minute mark on the incredibly difficult course, finishing in 16:59.6 and after “picking off four guys on the last hill,” he said, held on to finish 10th place and earn a medal.
“Throughout the whole race, I never really knew where I was,” Culp said. “I tried to pick it up after Mile One, I passed two or three people there and then tried to fight it all the way in and caught a few people at the end, but I didn’t know I was top 10 until they waved me in.
“It feels real good to finally get all the way to the top and all that hard work and effort paid off for something.”
Culp, who was only slightly stunned at the five minute pace in which the race went out in during the first mile, looked like he was running out of gas in the final 100 yards once he entered the rodeo arena, but found an extra gear and got a little motivation from ninth place finisher Gabe Heraty of Pagosa Springs to sprint to the finish.
“This course always goes out fast every year and with the giant down hill at the beginning, it goes by quick,” he said. “I was glad to be able to hang with the top guys, even though they were going way to fast, it was a lot of fun.”
The boys knew it was going to take something special to crack the top two, knowing how good both Frontier Academy (1st with 48 points) and The Classical Academy (2nd with 76) were. The Tigers placed all five of their scoring runners in the top 35 and Micah Munoz (17:36.1, 27th), Anthony Haberkorn (17:37.2, 29th), Andrew Descalzo (17:55.9, 34th), Luke Hixson (17:56.1, 35th) and Joseph Silva (18:45.3, 59th) will all be back next year to try and take the next step.
“Top three is definitely one of the highlights of my running career,” Culp said. “Especially since we were the underdogs in this race. I’m really proud of how the whole team ran today, couldn’t ask for more.”
CLASS 3A STATE CROSS COUNTRY MEET
At Norris Penrose Event Center
Team scores — Frontier Academy 48, The Classical Academy 76, Holy Family 99, Alamosa 152, Gunnison 156, Jefferson Academy 174, Liberty Common 176, Salida 205, Berthoud 214, Kent Denver 241, Prospect Ridge Academy 245, Bishop Machebeuf 269, Moffat County 299, Faith Christian 328, Lutheran 338.
Individuals (Top 10) — 1. Alex Baca, Gunnison, 16 minutes, 7.8 seconds; 2. Joshua Medina, Alamosa, 16:09; 3. Caden Schweer, Severance, 16:18.2; 4. Abuzaid Fanning, Frontier Academy, 16:27; 5. Logan Gullett, Eaton, 16:46.5; 6. Sylas Chambers, Frontier Academy, 16:53.3; 7. Benedict Siegel, Bishop Machebeuf, 16:55.8; 8. Henry Ilyasova, Manitou Springs, 16:57.6; 9. Gabe Heraty, Pagosa Springs, 16:58.8; 10. Jack Culp, Holy Family, 16:59.6.
Other Holy Family runners — 27. Micah Munoz 17:36.1; 29. Anthony Haberkorn 17:37.2; 34. Andrew Descalzo 17:55.9; 35. Luke Hixson 17:56.1; 59. Joseph Silva 18:45.3.
Team scores — The Classical Academy 65, Holy Family 113, Basalt 121, Aspen 123, Faith Christian 128, Liberty Common 141, Berthoud 141, Frontier Academy 216, Jefferson Academy 233, Salida 243, Moffat County 243, D’Evelyn 283, Kent Denver 289, Prospect Ridge 329, Elizabeth 348.
Individuals (Top 10) — 1. Katelyn Maley, Basalt, 18 minutes, 39.0 seconds; 2. Kennedy McDonald, The Classical Academy 19:13.4; 3. Allison Beasley, Peak to Peak, 19:20.3; 4. Audrey Orstead, Faith Christian, 19:23.8; 5. Sierra Bower, Basalt, 19:24.4; 6. Leah Hill, DSST-Montview, 19:27.1; 7. Kylie Simshauser, Florence, 19:32.1; 8. Cassidy McDonald, The Classical Academy, 19:35.1; 9. Sophia Valentine, The Classical Academy, 19:37.5; 10. Andie Rasmussen, Eaton, 19:37.5.
Holy Family runners — 23. Summer Norwell 20:46.4; 28. Alyssa Wells 21:06.9; 29. Madeline Tapp 21:07.2; 30. Evie Boyd 21:07.7; 38. Elizabeth Boselli 21:21.5; 45. Alyssa Jany 21:40.8.