STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
The Durango Demons are off to a fast start this cross country season.
In fact, they’re off to the fastest start in the state of Colorado.
The DHS cross country teams – boys and girls – are ranked No. 1 in the state this week after their dominant opening performances last weekend at the annual Joe I. Vigil Invitational in Alamosa.
The Demons, who won both divisions in the respected Alamosa meet, will showcase their lofty ranking and deep rosters today at the inaugural Southwestern Cross Country Challenge at Fort Lewis College.
The cross country meet at FLC will include middle school, high school junior varsity, varsity and collegiate races, starting at 2:30 p.m. today.
“It’s our home meet, and of course the kids want to do well,” said first-year DHS head coach David McMillan, who took over when Mark Dutro climbed the ladder to the FLC cross country post this year.
“We want to show why we’re ranked No. 1,” McMillan said.
“At the same time, I know, and we know, this is early season. We have work to do, and we know that,” McMillan said. “We are a humble team.”
“We have an unbelievable amount of depth, especially on the boys side,” McMillan said. “They have a deep drive to keep improving.”
DHS, led by Joe Maloney’s second-place finish, won the Alamosa meet with 50 points. Evergreen was second with 54. Five Demons, including two freshmen, grouped together and finished 15-16-17-18-19, giving the Durango boys the first-place plaque.
Maloney, in a close finish, raced the 5-kilometer course in a blazing 15 minutes, 39 seconds, one second behind Evergreen’s Jackson Sayler. Their times are among the fastest in the state this fall.
“Joe’s ... 15:39 puts him in a rare group in Colorado and in the U.S.,” said McMillan, himself a former top collegiate runner at Penn State University.
“Joe looks like a completely different runner this year ... you’ll see,” McMillan said as he reviewed the 15-19 finishes last week of Gordon Gianniny, Nicholas Turco, Alastair McMillan, Trent Andrews and Sean McLaughlin.
Shannon Maloney, a sophomore and Joe’s younger sister, won the girls race last weekend in dominating fashion to lead the Demons to their first-place result.
After Maloney, Hannah Peterson was fifth, Sarah Bates seventh, Emily Schaldach eighth, Carly Pierson 15th and Kat Seibert 18th for the Demons.
“It’s not just the talent on this team,” McMillan said. “But this team has a compass inside (directing them). I’m just thankful (to be their coach).”
McMillan joined the DHS staff after coaching and teaching at Judge Memorial – a Catholic high school in Salt Lake City – for the last four years. Previously, McMillan had coached middle school track for eight years in the national track hotbed of Hershey, Pa.
A teacher at Mountain Middle School in Durango, McMillan said he was excited to work with Dutro and Bayfield High School head coach Pat Vaughn to help produce the first Southwestern Cross Country Challenge.
“We redesigned the course this year ... I think it’s a real Durango course,” McMillan said of the cross country layout that will be long on singletrack trails and challenging dirt roads.
It will start near the new soccer fields on the east side of the campus. The course will use the service roads and trails on the east and south sides of Fort Lewis’ extended campus.
“We’re trying to consolidate the efforts of the three of us,” Vaughn said.
Timing-wise, Vaughn said, it made sense to join the former Bayfield prep meet with the Durango meet. They would avoid scheduling conflicts, he said, and allow the Bayfield and Durango runners to compete together at the annual Joe I. Vigil Invitational in Alamosa.
The combined meet, he said, gives the Wolverines a chance to face tougher competition.
“All of the regional schools will be here,” said Vaughn, referencing Pagosa Springs, Montezuma-Cortez, Monte Vista, Centauri, Mancos, Dolores, Telluride/Norwood, Farmington, Piedra Vista, Shiprock, Aztec and Kirtland Central, among others.
Teams from Gallup also are expected today, he said.
Page, Ariz., also will compete. The Sand Devils were annual participants in the former Durango Invitational cross country meet.
“It should be a very competitive meet,” Vaughn said.
Middle school girls, 2:30 p.m.
Middle school boys, 2:45 p.m.
High school JV girls, 3 p.m.
High school JV boys, 3:30 p.m.
High school varsity girls, 4 p.m.
High school varsity boys, 4:30 p.m.
Collegiate women, 5 p.m.
Collegiate men, 5:30 p.m.
“We’re trying to push the kids a little more this year,” said Vaughn, who coaches a perenially tough running program.
That starts today against the top-ranked Demons.