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BHS harriers’ dawn coming in Dolores

Boys’ and girls’ numbers up for coaches
Now-senior Tristan Sager, left, and now-sophomore Porter Sutherlin run in tandem during last season's Bayfield Invitational. Both are expected to lead the BHS boys in 2023, starting Saturday at Dolores' Boggy Draw Bear Chase. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

According to 11th-year Bayfield cross-country head coach Josh Walton, just two runners managed to track their summertime training mileage.

Both reached or exceeded 100 miles. And both are incoming freshmen – a good indicator that the program is headed in the right direction toward having at least one individual qualify for the CHSAA state championships in Colorado Springs.

“It’d be really nice to get back to Norris-Penrose (Event Center),” Walton said. “The last time was with Zeb Shields when he was a senior, which was three years ago – we’re kind of itching to get back.”

With the documented dedication of newcomers Cameron Mars and Abigail Robertson, plus the return of his top two boys and leading lady to a combined crew numbering roughly 15, Walton plus assistants Kian Hartley and Abrah Masterson just might be able to scratch that itch in 2023.

Led by senior Tristan Sager and sophomore Porter Sutherlin on the boys’ side, plus junior Sage Flinders on the girls’, BHS will hit the ground running Saturday at Dolores’ fifth annual Boggy Draw Bear Chase. The middle-school races will get things going at 9 a.m. The high school girls and boys will head out onto the difficult forested route at 10 and 10:30, respectively.

Now-freshman Abigail Robertson wins the middle school girls' race at last season's Bayfield Invitational. After putting in over 100 training miles this summer, Robertson and BHS will begin the 2023 season on Saturday at Dolores' Boggy Draw Bear Chase. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

“I hope they don’t get dumped on and have it muddy up the course,” Walton said, alluding to recent rainfall. “But it’s in the morning, so I hope the temperature stays down, doesn’t get too hot and we get some good races.”

“We’ve ran there for years now; our kids know the course.”

In addition to Flinders, the Wolverine girls will feature sophomore returnees Wrenalee Moore and Kamala Smith, plus Robertson and first-year sophomore Mila Feely.

“Sage, she’s been with us ever since sixth grade; this’ll be her third year in high school. I’m excited to have her … be our girls’ leader,” Walton said. “And we’re adding Mila; she ran track for us – she was a distance runner – but is trying cross-country this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how she can do in a 5K.”

“Abigail, she’s a home-schooled student but she put in 100 miles and she’s going to run for Bayfield,” Walton said, adding that he taught with her mother 16 years ago in Cortez.

“Once everyone gets enough practices under their belt, we should have a full girls’ team at meets to where we can score as a team. We’ll see how summer training has paid off; for the most part it’s a young group, so we’ll see how they do but all five will be back next year also.”

Closing out 2022 as the team’s No. 1 and 2 boys, Sager and Sutherlin will be joined by returning teammates including juniors Will Kennedy-Jones, Hunter Carroll and Sawyer Flinders, plus sophomores Parker Perkerewicz and Tristan Bennett (and possibly Daemon Christner). All are second- or third-year Wolverines.

“Tristan and Porter were my top two last year, so I’m excited to see where they end up once we start racing,” Walton said. “Will’s ran for me since he was a sixth-grader and has been looking really good in practice.”

“Tristan, he’s looking really strong this year. Hunter’s ran for us since his freshman year, and Sawyer–Sage’s brother – we’ll really see what he can do. And I also gained two freshmen … Cameron – who’s (former Wolverine) Royce Hinojosa’s youngest brother – and Ryan Kurtz, who has ran for us since sixth grade as well.”

Track-and-field participants Sean Zimmerman and Alex Ion, both seniors, are also giving the sport a go.

After the BDBC, next on Bayfield’s schedule will be the Ouray/Ridgway/Silverton collective’s Silverton Invitational on Aug. 26, followed by a trip to the Lake County Invitational on Sept. 2.

“We’re doing those kinds of races to help build their confidence and stuff,” Walton said. “Silverton is more of a ‘scrimmage’ type; they only invite a couple teams, so it’s a pretty small event. But it’s nice to have the kids run at that kind of elevation, I feel; it’s a huge confidence-booster when they do complete that race. Then it’s all ‘downhill’ from there [pauses] except for the next week when we go to Leadville.”

BHS will then hit the Joe I. Vigil Invitational in Alamosa on Sept. 9 before hosting the Bayfield Invitational on Sept. 16.

“Alamosa, it’s flat as a pancake. A little bit of elevation there, but it’s usually a pretty fast course,” Walton said. “But just the sheer amount of kids – usually anywhere from 120 to 150 will step to the line – makes for some big racing.”

The 3A/2A Intermountain League champion will be crowned Oct. 7 in La Jara at the Centauri Invitational, two weeks before postseason racing begins with the Wolverines – along with league members Pagosa Springs, Montezuma-Cortez and, sure to keep all runners pushing their personal paces, Alamosa – attending the 3A-Region II Championships on Oct. 20, at Monument Valley Park in Colorado Springs, with La Junta serving as the host school.

CHS, meanwhile, will travel due north to Buena Vista that same day for the 2A-Region III meet.

“My first nine years here in Bayfield, we’d always … been either in Delta or Aspen, or Basalt or at Coal Ridge,” said Walton. “Now they’ve moved us to this region which spans from Cortez to Lamar – pretty much the entire southern part of Colorado.”

“But we have grown a little bit; I’m excited to see what happens throughout the season.”

Now-freshman Cameron Mars runs during the middle school boys' race at the 2021 Boggy Draw Bear Chase in Dolores. Mars and BHS will begin the 2023 season on Saturday in Dolores. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)