Knowing his team leader wouldn’t be available for the previous weekend’s Joe I. Vigil Invitational out in the San Luis Valley, Josh Walton was relatively relieved Tristan Sager was at least doing some high-altitude training in preparation for the 2022 Bayfield Cross-Country Invitational on Saturday.
But the junior anchor wasn’t running at Bayfield’s 6,900 feet of elevation.
Nor at Alamosa’s 7,545. And not even at the 9,318 feet at which BHS had run as part of a last-minute, mostly-informal event in Silverton earlier this month.
Sager missed the Vigil to instead test himself at the famed Imogene Pass Run, maxing out at 13,114 feet above sea level. And where, in addition to water and/or electrolyte-rich drinks, a hot soup of sorts was available for refreshment, refueling, and – most paramount – warmth at the wind-whipped summit.
“There wasn’t any solids in it; they just gave you like … chicken broth, and it was great,” said Sager, who competed along with his father, Mike. “I’ve got to say, the best part of that race was the soup at the top; I drank two cups.”
“My dad, he signed us up because last year we did Mountain Marmot up at Purgatory,” Tristan said. “And I … guess that’s kind of our thing now; we do a marathon – or, I guess, a half-marathon – a year. It wasn’t exactly a full marathon, but it was still pretty tough! A 17-miler from Ouray to Telluride … and I had a great time. It’s like, once you do that you can do anything.”
“But just spending quality time with Dad, I really enjoyed that.”
Proud of finishing the IPR in 4 hours, 9 minutes, 46.9 seconds – ranking eighth in the male 15-19 division and 280th overall (Mike Sager finished 318th in 4:18:34.4) – Tristan Sager managed to place ninth on the rugged Pine Valley Church/Dove Ranch course in 21:24.68 on Saturday. Following closely was freshman Porter Sutherlin (10th place, 21:29.85), as the Wolverines tallied an adjusted score-5 62 points – good for third in the team standings.
“They’ve been kind of running together the entire season,” Walton said. “So with Tristan being a junior, and Porter excelling as a freshman … I thought the race went really well.”
“I would love to be first at some point,” Sager said, “but the way I kind of run is to try to stay up front and if people pass me I’ll use them to pull me forward, then later on I’ll get the energy to go and pass them.”
Sophomore Hunter Carroll took 18th in 23:46.54, classmate Sawyer Flinders crossed 22nd in 24:46.93, and freshman Daemon Christner completed Bayfield’s scoring in 31st (28:13.57). Sophomore Will Kennedy-Jones followed in 32nd (28:28.60), freshman Parker Perkerewicz took 36th (28:47.65), and freshman Tristan Bennett finished 37th (29:34.78).
Pagosa Springs senior Andrew Bowles won the race in 19:58.32. Last year’s winner, Centauri senior Mason Sowards, settled for second in 20:18.46, and Monticello, Utah, junior Jesse Pettit crossed third (20:18.63).
“It’s fun to see how the kids approach the race,” Walton said. “I was really impressed with Pagosa’s kid; he ran phenomenally. Like, we had him at 6:20 in the first mile, and that was with going over the big hill! It’ll be interesting to see him down the road.”
Monticello won the team title with 28 points, followed by CHS (41).
In the girls race, the only squad with enough entrants for score-5 purposes, Mancos, won the title with 15 points. Monticello sophomore Lilli Burton won the individual crown (24:28.87), with Dolores sophomore Elia Lowe the runner-up (24:52.73) and Monticello soph Marah Long finishing third (25:01.11).
Accidentally rerouted off course late by enthusiastic spectators, then-leaders Tayte Hostetter (Centauri; 27:07.47) and one-shoed Teagan Archer (Mancos; 27:30.40) ended up placing 10th and 11th, respectively, but were the sentimental victors.
For Bayfield, sophomore Sage Flinders placed 15th in 28:29.25, freshman Wrenalee Moore was 24th in 30:39.47, and freshman Kamala Smith finished 31st in 38:38.81.
“Sage, she’s been showing a lot of improvement in practice,” Walton said. “She’s been fighting through some injuries, so she’s improving and we hope she sees success in the future.”
Ignacio’s boys were led by freshman Dillon Brann, who finished 17th in 23:31.69. Freshmen Trace Crane (24:13.57) and Aven Bourriague (24:33.64) crossed 20th and 21st, and junior Corey Gomez placed 25th (25:07.20).
Junior Lauren deKay, the lone Lady Bobcat, finished 23rd in 30:35.69.
“This was our fifth year running the race at Pine Valley Church,” Walton said. “It’s a fun race; I got a lot of compliments about the course – a lot of coaches just loved the course – so I was really happy with how things went.”
“It was a lot of work the last couple days getting the course all set up; the rains did have us a little worried for our start line,” he said. “We had a (grader) to scrape the ground, but as wet as it was we weren’t able to until (Friday)! So we did have a few spots on the course that were a little muddy, but that’s cross-country.”