Standing behind the starting line prior to the Chicken Creek Challenge on Saturday, Mancos High School senior Simon Kearns felt a wave of energy wash over him as he listened to his hometown fans cheer.
Then, as a way of saying thank you to the family members, coaches and classmates who have supported him over the years, the Bluejays standout ran a flawless race and finished first overall in the 29-runner field with a time of 18:11. For Kearns, the victory marked the second of his high school career on the Chicken Creek course that has long been a favorite of cross-country runners throughout the Southwest.
Following Kearns for the Mancos boys team were fellow seniors Jake McKie and Caleb Yoder, who finished fourth (19:04) and seventh (19:43), respectively. Zane Wilson finished 15th (21:01), and Alex Fleitz rounded out the Bluejays varsity finishers with a 21st-place finish (21:24).
As a team, the Mancos boys finished second ahead of San Juan (Blanding) and Pagosa Springs. Monticello came in first in the team standings.
“Because of the rain the last few days, the course was muddy and slick in spots,” Mancos head coach Brady Archer wrote in an email to The Journal. “Our runners did a great job of running in some tough course conditions. They are really starting to come together at the right time of the season.”
On the girls’ side, Mancos was led by Grace Manning, who finished sixth overall with a time of 23:54. Hakayla Snow finished first overall in the junior varsity race (26:23), and Kylie Guiles finished third the junior varsity competition (27:18).
Writing about on his team’s home meet, Archer noted that the event would not be possible without community support, which has become a mainstay of the Chicken Creek Challenge in recent years.
“I appreciate all of the support that the community gives us for our one home meet,” Archer said. “Community members show up no matter what the conditions are like and watch these runners compete for Mancos. The support is always outstanding.”
With their regular season quickly winding down, both Mancos teams will next compete at the Ancient Trails Invitational in Cortez on Friday.