Buses filled the Montezuma County Fairgrounds parking lot, lines of spectators stretched at least 40 yards from the finish line and runners were everywhere.
No doubt, the Montezuma-Cortez Ancient Trials Invitational, held Saturday, Oct. 5, was a big event and for a Montezuma-Cortez High School Panthers cross country program looking to build, big events are a good thing.
Leading the way for the Panthers on the boys’ side was Chandler Dee, who, as he has all season, ran a smart race, finishing 23rd overall with a time of 19:41.
“I felt like my race went pretty well except for the hill,” said Dee. “On the hill, I got tired.”
Second across the line for the Panthers was Justice Ramos, whose time of 20:16 was good enough for 28th place overall. Although Ramos was not altogether happy with his performance, the standout wrestler was thankful for the cross-training opportunity that cross country provides.
“(Cross country) is good cross-training for wrestling,” Ramos said. “I’ll be ahead of everyone else when the season starts.”
Following Ramos for the Panthers, Taylor Wilson finished 39th (26:35), Bracken Whiteskunk finished 48th (24:24) and Leonard LaPaz finished 50th (24:58).
As a team, the Panthers’ boys finished ninth out of nine teams. Red Valley-Cove High School finished first.
Leading the Panthers on the girls’ side was Rachel Demby, whose time of 21:18 placed her fourth.
“I ran a minute faster today than I did last year at this race,” said Demby. “I’ve had top-five finishes for all of my races so far. I’m pretty proud of myself.”
Next behind Demby for the Panthers was Samantha Bagge, who ran one of her strongest races of the year to finish 29th (26:08).
“I think I did pretty good,” said Bagge. “The course was really nice. The last mile was probably the best.”
Following Bagge, Kalie Singer finished 32nd (26:37), Abby Lock finished 37th (27:23), Julia Damore finished 38th (28:02), Taryn Wilson finished 39th (28:46) and Madison VanBibber finished 42nd (32:29).
As a team, the Panthers’ girls’ team finished sixth ahead of Mancos. Ganado High School took the team title.
“I think that our runners are continuing to improve on their individual times,” said Panthers’ head coach Paul Koops, summing up his team’s performance. “The improvement doesn’t necessarily show up in team standings, but I think that our kids are working hard.”
Next up for the Panthers is the team’s last regular season meet of the year, in Blanding, on Wednesday, Oct. 9. The team will then travel to Delta for regionals on Friday, Oct. 18.