LITTLETON - With two tough regionals ahead of them, the girls' and boys' teams from 5A Pine Creek and 4A Vista Ridge are just hoping they can find a way to sneak into the state meet.
Friday gave them both a little more confidence.
Sandwiched between floods in Colorado Springs and Boulder, Littleton-based Heritage was the backdrop to the Wolves' boys' and girls' second-place finishes and individual titles for Pine Creek's top runners Kaleigh Kroeker and Zachary Alhamra. On top of that, Kroeker helped the Eagles' girls take the team title, and Alhamra led the boys' team to a second-place finish.
On the girls' side for Pine Creek, the inseparable trio of Kroeker, Gabrielle Sered and Katherine Sered, who went 27, 28, 29 in last season's state race, finished Friday's meet first, fifth and sixth in the 24-team Division 1 race (4A/5A schools). Earlier, in the boys' race, Alhamra and Caleb Ingram finished first and 10th for the Eagles.
Afterward, Kroeker said the meet proved something to the cross country masses.
"Nobody really thought we'd do that much this season," said Kroeker, a junior, who won in 18 minutes, 27 seconds after coming in second place at the same race last season. "Especially the girls' team. After we lost Heather Bates, who was one of the best runners in the state, people thought we couldn't be good anymore. But we're proving we are a team on the girls' and boys' side."
Vista Ridge is proving similar. Teeny-tiny freshman Ashley Polk took second in the girls' race and junior Seth Woodring took fourth in the boys' race as the quickly improving Wolves' team finished atop the state's competition in Division 3 (4A/5A schools). In the end, only Nebraska schools Scottsbluff (boys) and Sidney (girls) were better in their division.
"Sure there wasn't all the teams here that could have been, but this helps our confidence a lot," said Vista Ridge coach Nathan Truex, who took over the program this season. "Importantly for us, we are closing the gap with our one-through-five runners. And I've been around this long enough to know pack running is what wins team titles."
Pine Creek and Vista Ridge will take part in next week's Cougar Classic with each team still working toward their respective make-or-break regionals meets in mid-October.