Photo by Tracy Sturgis The top 10 finishers at the state 2A cross country meet take to the podium. The Paonia girls, led by Taylor Polson (second from right), placed fourth. Polson finished ninth, despite stopping to help another runner who had collapsed on the course. Also pictured, in Hotchkiss jerseys, (left to right) are Jenni Celis, Natalie Anderson and Sophia Schelle.Taylor Polson could have kept running when a fellow racer collapsed during last Saturday's state 2A cross country meet. The junior was hoping to end the season in the top five and was running a strong race, said head coach Richard Hypio.
Instead, she stopped to help Vangard senior Jessy Sweet, who was able to finish the race. It cost Polson valuable seconds.
Despite the delay, Polson finished ninth and the Paonia girls finished fourth with 57 points. Telluride finished third with 45 points. Her delay may have cost her that fifth-place finish, but it didn't have an effect on the overall team finish.
Hypio wasn't surprised that she stopped. "That's just the way she is," he said. But then, any of Polson's teammates would have done the same thing, said Hypio.
Freshman Chelsea Meilner, whose best races this season have been on the hilly courses, finished 15th with a time of 22:31 and Chelsy Reed rounded out the points for Paonia with a time of 23:31.6. First-year senior Mandy Bushta and junior Braiden Clement finished 52nd and 63rd respectively.
It was a great way to end a great season, said Hypio. Everyone ran well and finished about where they were expected. Fourth place "is a realistic spot for us to be."
Photo by Tracy Sturgis Paonia junior Jason Sturgis sprints to the finish at the state 2A cross country meet in Colorado Springs.Junior Jason Sturgis, who was the only Paonia male to qualify for state, finished 28th. That was a major improvement over last year's state finish, said Hypio. "For Jason, that was a good time."
This is the first year that Paonia High School has had its own cross country teams. In the past, Paonia runners commuted to Hotchkiss to run for the Bulldogs. The decision to split from Hotchkiss was a good one, said Hypio, who was assistant coach for Hotchkiss the past four seasons. While they are now competitors, the athletes continue to have a good relationship and are always supporting each other, even at the state level. He admitted that early on he had experienced some trepidation in accepting the head coaching position. "It was a good decision," he said Sunday. "In retrospect, I'm so glad I did."
This year's meet was held at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. It's not the fastest course in the state by any means, due largely to "Big Willis," a stretch of the course early on that climbs almost 300 meters, testing even the toughest of runners.
"The course is really nice for cross country," said Hypio, who estimated that the team's overall times were off by about a minute and a half due to the long climb. The terrain offers a lot of variety, the surface offers good footing, and the fact that the temperature was below freezing made for great running conditions. "It was a perfect day to race and a perfect place to race," said Hypio.