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RANGELY I The Panther cross country team rolled into Cortez on Friday evening in anticipation of the regional championships to follow on Saturday morning.
It was a balmy 46 degrees and raining, perfect weather for eating, so they headed to the local Italian restaurant to load up with carbs. With a full stomach the team crashed at the local motel in hopes of better weather in the morning.
A look out the motel door early Saturday morning saw cloudy overcast skies but no rain and the breeze coming in the door let them know it would be chilly. So they were thankful for no rain and ready for the cold and mud. At 8:30 a.m., the team headed to the course at the fairgrounds and bundled up and scouted the course to prepare for the worst parts. The runners then prepared themselves for the start mentally, knowing that all their competitors would have to run the same course.
The boys took off hard from the gun and let everyone know they were ready to compete. While they were aware that Telluride would finish first, they knew it would be a battle between Mancos, Crested Butte and Rangely for second place and they made it clear they were running to win. The first half mile was relatively flat but slick and then they were met with a steep, narrow, muddy trail to the top of a mesa. From there the runners were out of sight and parents and fans waited until they re-emerged with about 200 yards to go in the race.
William Scoggins was the first to round the corner into the home stretch for Rangely and finished in third place with a time of 18:56 in the cold, muddy weather. Devin Williams appeared next and fought to an 11th-place finish with a time of 20:47 in his first year of cross country. Blake Wanstedt was not far behind and completed the race in a time of 21:02 and a 13th-place finish in his senior year. Freshman Tanner Nielsen finished one of his best races of the year in a time of 21:37 and earned an 18th-place finish. Still fighting remnants of the flu bug, Justin Prosser completed the challenging course in a time of 22:16 and finished in 20th. The boys’ team finished 3rd overall behind Telluride and Mancos.
Rosalise Coombs, the Panthers lone varsity girl runner took off hard in the muddy muck and ran an outstanding race finishing 17th in a time of 27:31. Still recovering from a knee surgery, the poor footing kept Rosalise in a defensive mode as she had to be cautious on the slippery course. Coach Beth Scoggins noted she was particularly proud of Coombs’ performance as Rosalise has shown a lot of heart this year as she has battled through her knee injury.
At 1:15 p.m. when the awards were handed out, the Panthers had three runners headed to state: Scoggins, Williams and Wanstedt. While the team hoped to take all five runners, the three will score as a team in the state championships this weekend in Denver. Scoggins goes into the meet ranked seventh in the state and hopes to earn a top-10 position while the team hopes to earn a top-10 finish as well.