Recap: Colorado State Championships 2022

Four. That is the number of high schools to place both their boys and girls cross country teams in the top-10 at the 5A Colorado State Cross Country Championships: Valor Christian High School, Mountain Vista High School, Fairview High School, and Denver East High School. 

Nearly perfect racing and spectating conditions greeted athletes, coaches, families, and fans at the Norris-Penrose Event Center Saturday morning, with sunny skies, mild breezes and temperatures in the high-40’s. The Boys 5A race was the second championship race of the morning. The Angels were assigned the starting box on the far-right side of the start line, on which twenty teams and twelve individual qualifiers lined up to race for the state title. As the racers came through as a single pack in the first 200m, most of the Angels had found positions near mid-pack. By the end of the first mile, senior Corbin Hobert, in his second race since returning from a stress fracture, had established himself as East’s lead runner, coming through in 41st place. About 40 places and 10 seconds back, the usual pack of senior Quinn Higgins, sophomore Jonas Scudamore, senior Ian Logan, and freshman Henry Bennett came through, while junior Connor Beardsley and senior Harry Hittle were an additional 10 seconds and 40 places back. The second mile loop opens with the most substantial hill of the course, a 200m switchback known as “Little Willis,” followed by a more level section, the descent of Little Willis, and one last little uphill toward the 2-mile mark. Hobert, Higgins and Scudamore all took the hill aggressively and moved up substantially over that second mile, with Hobert in 32nd at the 2-mile mark with Scudamore and Higgins in 44th and 45th, seven seconds back. Logan at this point was about 10 seconds back of Higgins and Scudamore and had moved up to 60th place, with Bennett holding 82nd another 10 seconds back. Over the next 1000m, Higgins and Scudamore further closed the gap with Hobert, and the three approached the creek crossing 400m from the finish closely placed. Hobert demonstrated the best closing speed of the three, finishing 27th in 16:20, Higgins kicked into the rodeo stadium in 30th place in 16:23, and Scudamore finished 34th in 16:26. Logan was East’s 4th runner across the line, placing 65th in 15:56, Bennett was next in 87th (17:05), while Beardsley and Hittle were 119th and 131st.  As a team, the Angels had been in 12th place with 327 points one mile into the race, moved up to 8th place two miles into the race with 246 points, and held on to 8th while dropping their score to 226 at the finish – the second-best finish for the Angels at the Colorado State meet in the last 20 years. Valor Christian won the Boys 5A title with 155 points in one of the deepest races in recent history with the top-10 teams being separated by fewer than 100 points – in 2021, 230 points separated the first 10 teams. The race was also far faster than most years; in the eight years the State Meet has run this route, only in 2017 and 2019 would the times of East’s top-3 runners not been fast enough to finish among the top-12 individuals overall. 

Eighty minutes later, the 5A Girls would also run a historically fast race, with the winner becoming the first girl ever to break 17 minutes on the course and the next four all under 18 minutes – doubling the number of girls ever to post times that fast. Probably sensing the hot pace out front, most of the East Angel Girls positioned themselves in the back half of the pack as they came off the far right side of the start line, running conservatively throughout most of the first mile. The exception was sophomore Rosie Mucharsky, who tucked into the second of a couple chase packs following the early leaders, coming through the mile in 22nd place. Juniors Grace Todd and Sophia Shiroff were 87th and 94th through the mile, ninth graders Scout Chomas and Julieta Ochoa 96th and 118th, and juniors Sasha Bull and Avery Ash 116th and 146th. At the mile, the Angels were in 15th place as a team with 365 points. Todd would make the most gains of any of the East Girls over the hilly second mile, moving up to 68th place, behind Mucharsky who went through 2 miles in 27th. Chomas and Ochoa made steady gains, moving into 88th and 110th respectively, with Shiroff in between those two in 92nd. Those individual gains pushed the Angels as a team up to 12th place at the 2-mile mark with 332 points. The Angels dropped another 31 points over the last mile of the race. Mucharsky finished 33rd overall, followed by Todd in 44th, Chomas in 84th, Ochoa in 90th, Shiroff in 98th, Bull in 126th and Ash in 137th. Their 301 points was good enough for 10th place overall among the 20 teams in the 5A Championship, leaving little doubt after a one-year absence from the meet that the Angels belonged among the top teams in the State. Air Academy High School was the overall Girls Team winner with a mere 76 points. The East Girls 10th place finish was the second-best finish by an East Girls Cross Country team in school history, behind only the team’s 8th place finish in 2019. 

The accomplishments at State Meet capped an historically great year for the Denver East Cross Country Program – arguably the best in program history. (Denver East Boys won five state titles between 1958 and 1967, back in an era when the state was less than a third of its current population and only cows roamed Douglas County. Girls did not participate in the Colorado State Meet until 1978; so our ideas of a “program” have change a bit in the last fifty-five years). In 2022, the Angels swept Denver Prep League (again); qualified two teams for State for only the second time in school history; and placed two team in the top-10 for the first time. How does this 2022 Angels team compare to previous years? If you imagine a scenario where the 2022 East Girls team races the 2019 East Girls team, and each runner equals their personal best time, 2022 easily out-distances 2019, by a score of 23 point to 32 points. If you imagine the 2022 Boys racing the 2012 Boys (a team that finished 5th at State), the score finishes tied, 28-28, with the 2022 team claiming the win by way of the 6th runner rule. The Kohuth top-10 board was reset five times on the boys’ side and three on the girls’ side in 2022. Also this year, the school record for girls was reset, again (Mucharsky); a new freshman boys record was set (Bennett); and the second fastest time by an East sophomore was run (Scudamore). A virtual meet of the best JV Teams in the State this year estimates that the JV Girls would place 10th and the JV Boys 12th of all teams statewide. Quod erat demonstandum.

Final DPL Update: Another demonstration of the strength of our fellow DPL schools at State Meet – Denver South Boys finished 12th in 5A; Northfield Boys finished 12th and Girls 8th in 4A; and George Washington Boys finished 15th and Girls 10th in 4A.

Also, don’t forget to buy your banquet tickets!