A late-season arrival by freshman Tawny Roberts gave the Paonia cross country team what it needed to win this year's regional title, and a stellar performance by Paonia's top runners earned the team a second place finish and another piece of hardware for the trophy case.
After the Paonia girls scored 24 points to win the regional cross country title on Oct. 20 -- the first in the program's six-year history -- head coach Brandy Sparks knew her team would be a top contender in the 40th annual Colorado High School Activities Association girls cross country meet. Four of her runners, Tawny Roberts, Katya Schwieterman, Brooke Hillman and Alex Eaton, finished in the top 10, and a fifth, Jade Ellenberger made the top 20.
"I guarantee you, the other coaches are going to tell their kids, 'That red team is Paonia. That's the one you need to stay up with,'" said Sparks after the regional race.
The team came oh so close to winning the state title. Schwieterman, who has shown impressive levels of improvement all season, placed 11th overall with a time of 20 minutes, 59 seconds. Roberts and Hillman finished in the top 15, giving them 30 points and a second-place finish. Nederland, which claimed the first and third places, won the state title with 24 points.
Eaton finished 27th and Ellenberger finished 59th. First-year senior Jordan Evans, placed a respectable 82nd.
This is the 40th year the CHSAA has held a girls' state cross country meet.
Led by junior Ethan Bartlett's 19th-place time of 17:58.2, the Paonia boys team scored 84 points to finish seventh out of 16 teams. In the final cross country race of his four-year career, third-year state qualifier Caden Meilner placed 37th with a time of 18:23.1. Logan Green and Ben O'Rourke finished 49th and 50, followed by Harley Ewert's 56th place finish in 19:01.5, and Elijah Evans with a time of 19:23.2.
Lyons won the team title with 18 points. The western slope and Region 4 were well-represented at state. Ben Kelley of Soroco won the event in 16:06.5, and Telluride, Rangely and Mancos had top-10 finishes. This is the 75th year the event has been held.
Hotchkiss senior Sam Rodriguez capped a four-year cross country career by placing 17th at the 75th annual CHSAA Cross Country Championships.
Rodriguez posted a time of 17 minutes, 36.2 seconds. A two-time state qualifier, Rodriguez showed steady improvement throughout his high school career and finished in the top 10 in all but one of his regular-season cross country races this year. In 2016 he placed 45th at state.
Senior Hannah Hatheway, who qualified for state after placing 14th at the 2A Region 4 meet on Oct. 20, placed 37th with a time of 22:32.10. Hatheway is a senior at Cedaredge High School.