Beating the heat: Summit cross-country team sees marked improvement from last year’s Battle Mountain Husky Invitational 

Rex Keep/Courtesy photo
Ella Hagen leads the Battle Mountain Husky Invitational on Friday, Sept 1 in Minturn. Hagen won the race for the third consecutive year despite battling temperatures in the upper 80s.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

When visiting a mountain town at over 7,500 feet of elevation at the tail end of the summer, there is usually a safe expectation that temperatures will be mild with the possibility of an early fall brisk breeze in the air. 

Still, Summit High School’s cross-country team members were not necessarily expecting cool conditions when they stepped off the bus in Minturn’s Maloit Park for the 2023 Battle Mountain Husky Invitational on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 1, but they were taken aback by the nearly 90-degree temperatures radiating throughout the hilly park.

Warm conditions aside, Summit High’s returning runners took to the starting line eager to improve upon their finishes at last year’s meet. 

Last year, the Summit girls cross-country team placed third overall with Ella Hagen finishing first in a course-record time of 18 minutes 54 seconds, while the Summit boys cross-country team placed fifth with 2023 graduate Dom Remeikis placing third overall among the boys runners. 

With the hot afternoon sun beaming down, Hagen wasted no time assuming her position at the front, putting a gap on the field in the opening 400 meters of the race.

While receiving ice-cold water throughout the race to prevent overheating, Hagen continued to power across the course and added distance between her competitors as the finish line loomed ahead. 

Hagen crossed the finish line in 19:39, placing first overall at the race for the third year in a row. 

“It was definitely a really challenging race and it tested a lot of what we have been training for,” Hagen said. “Being able to get out there and work really hard through the conditions and the various aspects of the course that make it challenging. I was really happy with the race in general.”

Similar to last year, Hagen was followed about 90 seconds later by Battle Mountain High School’s Lindsey Whitton. Now a senior, Whitton completed her home meet course in 21:08, with both Hagen and Whitton’s best times on the course slowing by about 40 seconds because of the hot conditions.

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Hagen wasn’t the only girl to power through the hot weather, junior Avery Eytel and freshman Lily Benbow worked together over the hilly 5-kilometer race and both notched top-10 finishes 10 for the Tigers.

Shaving 65 seconds from her time from last year and jumping 15 places, Eytel crossed the finish line in sixth place (22:39). Benbow quickly followed Eytel to place seventh — the highest among the freshmen — in 23:01.

Senior Adaline Avery and junior Cecelia Miner rounded out the scoring for the Tigers with Avery placing 17th (24:12) and Miner finishing 29th (25:00).

With five girls in the top 30, Summit jumped one place from last year to place second overall at the meet with a total of 56 points. Battle Mountain had six girls in the top 25 and won the meet with a total of 51 points.

Rex Keep/Courtesy photo
Josh Shriver and Jay McDonald stride out from the start line at the Battle Mountain Husky Invitational on Friday, Sept. 1.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

Despite not racing three of the team’s top seven runners from the week before, the Summit High boys cross-country team still managed to race well amid the heat.

With one high school cross-country race under his belt from last week, freshman Jay McDonald confidently put himself in the main pack of the first 5K high school cross-country race of his burgeoning career. 

McDonald and junior Josh Shriver ran close to one another in the first few miles of the race before McDonald opened up his stride over the last mile of the race. McDonald placed third overall in a time of 17:58 to be the first freshman across the line. 

McDonald was followed by Shriver in sixth (18:39) and sophomore Carter Niemkiewicz in 12th (19:39).

Shedding 29 spots from last year, sophomore Cain Steinweg placed 15th (19:42) and freshman Owen Fallon rounded out the scoring for Summit with a 36th-place finish (21:31).

Sophomore Gavin Benedict finished in 40th (21:42) and junior Jens Phaf placed 56th (23:09). 

The Summit boys cross-country team improved three spots from last year’s meet to place second overall with 72 points. Eagle Valley High School placed first with a score of 26. 

“It is really amazing,” Hagen said. “Everybody on the team, boys and girls, works so hard and it really inspires everyone to give it their all out there for each other and the team. They are amazing people and amazing athletes so it is really fun to see us have success as a group now after these last two, three years.”

The Summit High cross-country team will be back in action on Saturday, Sept. 9, when it competes at the flat and fast Liberty Bell Cross-Country Invitational in Littleton. 

Last year, many members of the Summit High cross-country team, along with many teams across the state, set their lifetime personal bests across 5 kilometers and will look to improve upon those times on Saturday.  

“I am very excited to put myself out there in a big, large-scale meet and see what I can do after a year of training,” Hagen said. “I am also super excited to see what the team can do at a meet of this scale and see how everybody improves and where all of their work has paid off.”

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