Recap: Denver (and Aurora) Prep League Championships

Topline team goal, every year, is sweeping the team titles at “City.” “We Run this City” is not just a motto; it is a mission. A mission for which the entire team is a part. Mission Accomplished! 

JV Boys got to hit the course at Central Park first on a breezy, but otherwise pleasant day for racing and spectating. As would be the case with the JV Girls who followed five minute later, the runners from Northfield High School got off the line aggressively with the East Angels in pursuit. By midway through the race, it was clear the Angels were moving up nicely, and by 2.5 miles, it was clear the Angels had run the better race and would bring home the team title. Sophomore Ben Brown and freshman Toby Penner would work together most of the race, eventually claiming 2nd and 3rd respectively in 18:40 and 18:45.  Co-captain Charlie Keglovitz ran strong to secure 5th in 19:05, followed by junior Finn Egan who charged into the finish in 6th in 19:08. Abraham Morginsky, consistently one of the top freshmen in every race he has run, claimed 8th in 19:37. The East JV Boys scored a mere 24 points. For context, when a team scores 27 or fewer points, they have “beat the field,” meaning the combined score of all the other teams would not have been enough to defeat the Angels. Sophomore Finley Steed (11th, 19:47) and freshman Kyle Kojima (14th, 20:07) rounded out the first seven for the Angels. Northfield ended up second with 31 points and Denver South was 3rd with 95 points of the 8 scoring teams.

In the JV Girls race, ninth grader Kairine Brown took the lead early and never looked back. While she would be accompanied early on by a single runner from Northfield, Brown steadily pulled away for a 20 second win in 21:35. Behind her, the East Angel JV Girls were steadily making their way up through a pack of Northfield girls, the pre-race favorites, who had initially made up most of the top-10 runners in the race over the first mile.  Unfortunately for Northfield, cross country is scored at the conclusion of five kilometers, not after one mile. Juniors Avery Ash and Ann Rothman-Haji moved up smartly throughout to secure 3rd and 5th place in 22:00 and 22:13. Ninth grader Quinn Dunkin, whose early season racing was limited due to injury, ran to a 9th place finish in 23:02, followed by Co-Captains Helen Miller (10th, 23:06) and Bri O’Meara (12th, 23:19). Ninth grader Meara McBride was 22nd in 23:58, sophomore Ella Terch was 24th 24:12, and Co-Captains Eleanor Goldstein and Siena Berry were 24th and 27th in 24:38 and 24:45. The East Angel JV Girls comfortably outpaced 2nd place Northfield High School 28 to 40, with Denver South High School 3rd with 77 points. 

The Varsity Boys toed the line as slight underdogs to Denver South. The first mile of the race went out as anticipated with a trio of runners, two from South and one from George Washington, taking the early lead. East’s usual lead group of Co-Captains Quinn Higgins and Ian Logan, sophomore Jonas Scudamore, and freshman Henry Bennett followed, along with a pair of runners from Northfield. Another 10-15 runners back, senior Harry Hittle and juniors Kai Luna and Connor Beardsley battled for position, while Co-Captain Ben Hopper trailed by another few places. By two miles Higgins and Scudamore had separated themselves from the rest of the first chase pack and were securely in 4th and 5th, while Logan and Bennett held 8th and 9th, with a widening gap back to 10th place. At this point, Beardsley looked to be the 5th Angel scorer, but things were looking more favorable for South, as he, Hopper, Hittle and Luna were well behind the 5th runner for South. With 400m to go, East was at least a point back of South, as South’s 3rd, 4th and 5th runners headed toward the finish in 13th, 14th, and 15th place. While East had an advantage of five points when scoring the first four runners of each team, the Angels’ 5th runner would need to finish no worse than four places back of South’s 5th runner to steal the victory, and at that point Beardsley and Hopper were running 21st and 22nd.  In a finish that will become part of Angels lore for years to come, Hopper unleashed a finishing kick that propelled him past Beardsley and two Northfield runners to secure 19th place and East another team championship, 45-46 over the Ravens. The Northfield Nighthawks were just a few additional points back for 3rd with 52 points. Beardsley held on to 22nd place, three places ahead of the 6th South runner, which could have proven critical had the score been tied after the first five runners. Luna placed 27th and Hittle 28th of 81 runners in the race.  

The Girls Varsity took care of business a little less dramatically. Sophomore Rosie Mucharsky took an early and definitive lead in the first 200m, eventually stretching out her advantage to 27 seconds on her way to her second individual league championship in 18:31. A pair of Northfield girls trailed Mucharsky, who were themselves trailed early on by a pack of runners which included juniors Grace Todd and Sophia Shiroff and ninth grader Scout Chomas. Todd would eventually be in a sprint for places 5th-7th, for which she claimed 6th in 20:18. Chomas claimed 8th in 20:25 and Shiroff 11th in 20:35. Ninth grader Julieta Ochoa again made her way up through the pack to race to a 12th place finish in 20:43. With five runners in the top twelve and no other team with more than three, there was little doubt that the Angels had successfully defended their title for another year. Junior Sasha Bull finished 18th in 21:33, sophomore Lila Cypers 24th in 21:48, ninth grader Mary Clare Nussbaum 28th in 22:18, and Co-Captain Evelyn Higgins 29th in 22:27; East’s 6th – 9th runners were ahead of their counterparts on every other team. The final score had Denver East at 38 points, Northfield 51, George Washington 58, and South 69.

It was certainly fun to celebrate a fifth consecutive year of sweeping all divisions of the League Championship. The task becomes more meaningful every year as the challenge to defeat the likes of Northfield and Denver South High Schools keeps getting harder. For the JV teams, the meet was a great finale for the season. For the Varsity teams, the Championship season continues next week at the Colorado 5A Region 3 Championships on Thursday at Northglenn’s Open Spaces Park. It has been five years since Denver East sent both its Boys and Girls team to the Colorado State Meet. It will not be an easy task, but both teams look well positioned for top-4 finishes at the regional meet which would send them to State Meet.