State bound: Summit cross-country team qualifies for state, notching 2nd place finishes at regionals
Marks first time both teams have qualified for state since 2008
After putting in countless miles throughout the summer and training all fall, the Summit High School cross-country team has accomplished its goal of qualifying for the 4A state cross-country meet.
The feat occurred at the 4A Region 1 cross-country meet on Thursday, Oct. 20, in Grand Junction. The boys and girls teams both placed second overall to qualify 14 athletes to the state cross-country meet on Saturday, Oct. 29, in Colorado Springs.
The last time that Summit sent both teams to the state meet was 14 seasons ago during the fall 2008 season.
Coming into the regional meet, both the girls and boys cross-country teams expected they would place in the top four, but they also knew that the race would be tight because of a competitive regional field
Head coach Mike Hagen told the team prior to the meet that the team did not need perfection to make it to the state meet but rather needed “B+” races with no heroic efforts.
Hagen was pleasantly surprised with Summit’s performance in Grand Junction as he reported the team had A- races — or better— and a couple heroic efforts to push the team to state.
The Summit boys cross-country team was the first team to race the flat, fast course on the Lincoln Park Golf Course.
Senior Dom Remeikis led the way for Summit, putting himself in the front pack and hanging onto a pace that averaged well under five minutes a mile for the 5-kilometer race. Remeikis earned all-region honors by placing fourth overall in a time of 15 minutes, 9.6 seconds.
Two more Tigers would earn all-region honors in the boys race: sophomores Joshua Shriver and Will Bentley. Shriver and Bentley both had exceptional performances, with Shriver placing seventh and Bentley placing 12th.
Shriver took 21 seconds off his season best time of 16:10, running the course in 15:49.1. Bentley on the other hand, raced his first cross-country race since middle school. Bentley has been riddled with injuries over the last two years but has maintained his fitness through mountain biking and Nordic skiing.
Bentley dazzled in his high school debut with a 16:13 race to help qualify Summit to the state cross-country meet.
Senior Landon Cunningham placed 17th (16:36.3) while senior Zach McBride placed 25th (17:06.5).
McBride’s race especially stood out to Hagen as a heroic performance.
“We didn’t need any heroes, but Zach McBride kind of ran heroically,” Hagen said. “He was in immense pain coming off of hip surgery and getting back into fitness. He had to gut it out and he was hurting. He could have easily given it up.”
The Tigers scored 65 points to initially tie for first with Battle Mountain. However after the tie-breaker was factored in, first place was awarded to Battle Mountain since its sixth-fastest runner beat Carter Niemkiewicz of Summit. The Summit boys ended up placing second overall, 18 points in front of Mullen High School.
After seeing the boys perform well, the girls cross-country team had its chance to qualify for the state meet.
Sophomore Ella Hagen raced in a league of her own in the front. She wasted no time getting out in front of the chase pack while keeping the course record in her sights.
Ella Hagen expertly navigated the course to cross the finish line in 17:15.3 for an average of 5:32 per mile. She beat Battle Mountain’s Milaina Almonte by close to 50 seconds and beat the previous course record by 9 seconds.
“It was a different type of race from others that I have done before but it was definitely fun and an incredible experience,” Ella Hagen said.
Behind Ella Hagen, the real race for a state qualifier began. Freshman Lauren McCalla placed fifth for the Tigers with a time of 19:02.4 while junior Adaline Avery rounded out the top 20 with a 19th place finish (20:23).
Cecelia Miner and Avery Eytel were the final scoring runners for Summit, placing 21st and 22nd respectively. Miner crossed the finish line in 20:29.8 and Eytel finished in 20:35.8.
Eytel was the hero of the girl’s race for coach Mike Hagen. Not only was she the fifth scoring run for the Tigers but he said she’s also improved a lot over the season.
“She had the biggest improvement from last year comparatively and time-wise,” Mike Hagen said. “That fifth-place runner is huge and when our pack is running closer like that is a mark of a strong team.”
The Summit girls cross-country team scored 65 points to add another second-place finish behind Battle Mountain.
“When the results did come out — especially that both teams had made it — I think everyone was on cloud nine,” Ella Hagen said. “It’s one feeling to race with your team, but it’s another when everything you’ve worked for, all the practices, the early morning runs come together for the goal that has been everybody’s since the beginning of the season.”
The state qualification marks the ninth time in program history that the Summit girls cross-country team has qualified for state and the first time since 2014. The boys state qualifier marks just the third time in program history that the Summit boys cross-country team has qualified for state with the last time occurring in 2019.
“It really had been our goal all season,” Mike Hagen said. “Focusing on the team aspect and getting both teams to state has been a goal of mine and the team. It was really big from that standpoint of having both teams go.”
Heading into the 4A state cross-country meet next week, Summit will recover and prepare for the moment the team has been training for since the summer. Mike Hagen does not want to put too much pressure on his team heading into state but is confident that the team could make a solid showing.
“State is at a different level and we haven’t been there in a while,” Hagen said. “I think there is a good possibility that both teams will place in the top 10. Four of the top teams in the state raced in our region yesterday and we showed we can be competitive in the region and the state.”
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