Summit cross-country team preserves its legs for regionals while placing first and fourth in Rifle |

Summit cross-country team preserves its legs for regionals while placing first and fourth in Rifle

The Summit girls cross-country team poses for a photo after placing first at the Rifle XC Invitational on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Mike Hagen/Courtesy photo

After racing hard throughout the season, the Summit cross-country team took to the start line for the Rifle XC Invitational on Wednesday, Oct. 12, with a different mission in mind 

Instead of racing all out, the Summit cross-country team chose to save their legs for the 4A Region 1 cross-country meet next Thursday in Grand Junction.

“There were a couple of goals with it,” head coach Mike Hagen said. “One was to give some of our runners a little bit of an easier race before regionals in order to freshen them up both physically and, especially, mentally.”

Mike Hagen had the majority of the team run steady together for the first 2 miles of the 5-kilometer Rifle Creek Golf Course before allowing his team to open up their strides over the last mile. 

“Most of the people tempoed for 2 miles and then went (faster) with a mile to go — being able to start that last mile a little fresher than normal so they could push that last mile and really feel what that feels like,” Mike Hagen said as she explained the strategy. 

Beyond resting up for the regional meet next week, the workout effort also helped Summit develop some of its younger athletes. By having some of the older, faster athletes there to encourage them, many athletes had some of their best races of the season.

“Basically half the team tempoed with the other ones, and we tried to get the other ones to have a good start and a good first mile and second mile,” Mike Hagen said. “They really pulled them along. We were working on some of our younger athletes, learning how hard you can push at the beginning of the race.” 

Despite the team running a workout for the majority of the race, the Tigers still were dominant in Rifle. 

Sophomore Ella Hagen placed first overall with a new course record, and sophomore Joshua Shriver placed second overall in the boys race.

As a result of the entire team’s work, the girls placed first overall with 41 points, while the boys team placed fourth overall with 84 points. 

Like the rest of the team, Ella Hagen took it easy by going out with Basalt High School’s Katelyn Maley. The plan was to stick with Maley for at least the first mile and up the effort for the last 2 miles, but Hagen dropped Maley around a half-mile into the race.

Biding her time and keeping the effort relatively easy, Hagen continued to lead the race until the last mile where she spun her legs to the finish line. 

After Maley beat Hagen by a tenth of a second at the 2021 Rifle Invitational, Hagen finished in 18 minutes, 7 seconds for first place while setting a new course record by around 15 seconds.

Maley finished 43 seconds behind Hagen and 38 seconds behind her time from last year in 18:50.60. 

Following Hagen was freshman Lauren McCalla, who ran a time of 20:17.10 for fifth place overall. Sophomore Avery Eytel rounded out the top-10 in tenth place with a time of 21:58.90.

Paige Wescott placed 15th overall in 22:50.50, Darby Leffler placed 16th in 22:57.60 and Claire Jackson placed 19th in 23:23.30. 

On the boys side, Shriver tempoed alongside freshman Cain Steinweg. After helping Steinweg through the first 2 miles, Shriver cruised over the final mile.

“It worked really well, and I think it was a good indicator for Josh,” Mike Hagen said.

Josh ran those 2 miles with Cain and really benefited him. At about 2 miles Josh was in 15th place and took off. About 300-meters later, he was in second. He passed 13 people in a flash.” 

Shriver finished in a time of 17:46.90 for second place, and Steinweg placed ninth in 18:30.80. 

Freshman Carter Niemkiewicz placed 18th in 19:06.20, freshman Gavin Benedict placed 24th in 19:49.30 and sophomore Jens Phaf crossed the finish line in 21:05.20 for 35th place. 

Mike Hagen was impressed by the team’s finish despite missing a few athletes on both the girls and boys teams. 

“I think this race was reassuring for me, and the kids too,” Hagen said. “There were talks of if we were training too hard and people were getting nervous and uptight. It was good to go to this meet, which was a little bit more low-key, and we could try some strategies.”

Gavin Benedict, left, and Carter Niemkiewicz, right, tempo the first 2 miles of the Rifle XC Invitational on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Despite most of the team taking the first 2 miles at a relaxed pace, the boys team placed fourth overall while the girls placed first.
Mike Hagen/Courtesy photo

The race gives the team confidence heading into the regional meet next week, where both teams will vie for a state qualifier.

“They feel calmer now, more assured, more ready for next week,” Hagen said. “Fingers crossed, I think both teams can qualify (for state), and honestly I am hoping for more than that. I think the girls have a decent shot at placing second, and I think the boys have a shot at anything from first to fourth.”

Summit will race at the Lincoln Park Golf Course in Grand Junction on Thursday, Oct. 20. The boys will race at 5 p.m., and the girls will race at 5:30 p.m. 

The top 15 individuals and top four teams out of each region qualify to the 4A state cross-country meet on Oct. 29.

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