Summit County runners Vaille, Bonenberger ready for Colorado’s biggest high school cross-country race
Summit High School juniors Max Bonenberger and Jeremiah Vaille have an idea of what they’re in for on Saturday at 1 p.m. when they toe the state championship start-line in Colorado Springs.
Having previously raced on the same 5-kilometer course at the season-opening Cheynne Mountain Stampede event, the duo knows the somewhat hilly course will have its share of dirt trails and doubletrack running space before opening up into a classic stadium finish inside the Norris-Penrose Event Center.
Inside, thousands of Colorado’s biggest high school cross-country running fans will be cheering the hundreds of runners through to the final finish line of their season and, in some runners’ cases, their careers. Once there on Saturday, Bonenberger and Vaille will have completed two of the most impressive high school running seasons in recent Summit High School memory. This is the first time in three years the Tigers program will have a presence at the highest level of Colorado high-school running.
It makes it all that much sweeter that Bonenberger and Vaille had state-qualifying seasons during the same autumn. Tigers head coach Heather Quarantillo hoped for this kind of statement season from her boys teams during preseason training in August.
“They’ll run about 75 meters to the finish line when they enter the stadium,” Quarantillo said. “It’s a pretty neat environment.”
“To me,” Vaille said of the first time around in Colorado Springs at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, “the course was a little hard, mostly because it was the first course of our season. I wasn’t in as great of shape as I am in now. There were a couple of hills, but I feel like we can power through those. And we are going down on Friday night to look at the course, and that will definitely help a lot. It was not my best race, but I’ll certainly be much improved this next weekend.”
“The hills are pretty gradual,” Bonenberger added. “So it shouldn’t be that much of an issue, and there’s a water feature which will make it pretty fun.”
Vaille and Bonenberger finished in seventh and 14th places, respectively, at the Class 4A, Region 1 meet at Battle Mountain last weekend. Vaille ran to a time of 17 minutes and 52.7 seconds. Bonenberger qualified for states by a nine-second margin with his 14th place finish and time of 18:04.2.
In recapping each of their races, Vaille and Bonenberger ran to different experiences en route to their ultimate qualifications.
“It was a crazy race to me,” Vaille said. “From the beginning, I was nervous. But as soon as the gun went off, just as in all races, I just focused on the race. I went out really hard.”
Vaille then followed Bonenberger, who Vaille described as beginning his race “harder than I expected.”
“I followed him, and ended up passing him shortly after,” Vaille said. “And I just continued a really fast pace. From the start, I got into a top-10 position, which I did not expect at the beginning of the race. … I just kept my pace. I was afraid I was going to drop back, but I never did. …Throughout, there were a ton of people on my team cheering me on. A lot of adults, a lot of parents of my teammates, everyone was cheering me on. Everything throughout the race was perfect for me.”
LISTEN: Jeremiah and Max preview the state championship race course, reflect on fond memories from the season and chat about what it’s like coming up through the cross-country ranks together.
Throughout the race, Vaille said he was pretty sure he’d make it to states. Bonenberger’s race, however, played out differently.
“I wanted to start out top 20 and then eventually get in top 10,” Bonenberger said. “After the first mile I kind of just started picking off people. I wanted to get a good spot for that third mile, because after the first or second mile, you don’t really change that many positions. So after the first mile, I kind of just picked it up a little bit and started passing people. And after everyone was shouting out different places I knew that I would be near the top 15, so I tried to stick with that group.”
“In that moment,” Quarantillo added, “everything from the season’s hard work came together. We were so excited to put these two in the top 15.”
Vaille and Bonenberger say that the high-caliber running from their teammates this season played a helping role in each’s individual season successes. Routinely running right near each other, whether it be in training or in a race, the teammate element in this sometimes isolationist sport has been something special for Summit this season.
“It’s just awesome having someone to run with,” Vaille said. “Being there, you’re not alone on the trails, you have someone to talk to. We have some great conversations in practice. And, in races, you have somebody to pace off of.”[swift-recs]
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