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Nanaeto, Valdez off to state cross-country for Ignacio

Junior earns first berth, sophomore a second
Standing with head coach Daniel Holley (center), Ignacio girls cross-country members Avaleena Nanaeto, left, and Charlize Valdez brave chilly, windy conditions before practice Monday for a photo five days before both were to run in Colorado Springs in the 2019 CHSAA State Championships Class 2A girls feature.

After placing 73rd at the 2018 CHSAA Class 2A Girls State Cross-Country Championships, Ignacio’s Avaleena Nanaeto was asked to single out one particular section of the Norris-Penrose Event Center course which she felt greatly slowed her pace.

“Probably the back part where it’s just long,” she said, having clocked 24 minutes, 22.4 seconds. “And then you have to go up some more hills, that’s where I got tired.”

Taking charge in 2019 of the second-year-reborn Bobcat program, head coach Daniel Holley expressed elation over seeing not only Nanaeto requalify for the penultimate race – set to begin at 10:20 a.m. Saturday – but also first-year runner Charlize Valdez.

“The girls really bought in on the plan and they came to practice every day, worked hard and they’ve got to see the results of their training pay off,” Holley said.

At the 2A-Region 4 Championships, both did right when it mattered most.

Competing in Delta on the speed-conducive Confluence Park course, Nanaeto punched her ticket to state with a 14th-place time of 21:48.96.

Valdez had already finished an outstanding second; her 20:41.77 was only slightly slower than the 20:39.49 of Caprock Academy’s Ashleigh Gardner. Paonia’s Katya Schwieterman (20:46.26) was not far behind in third place.

“It was a really big race for me; I’ve never really ran cross-country,” Valdez said. “This is my first year doing it, so it being such a big race, I was super nervous, especially since we have such a small team. But once the race started, I followed the pack pretty much until I got at a comfortable pace where I knew I could kick it in at the right time: In the end.”

With a second consecutive trip to state, Nanaeto will have a chance to be a four-time qualifier at the end of her IHS days. She first began running to get in shape for basketball, and now she’s carved out her space in the sport.

Holley has been pleased with the dedication of both athletes going into state.

“Both girls ran their hardest efforts of the season and did exactly what was asked of them in Delta, which was finish in the top 15,” he said. “The Delta performances were outstanding.”

Known already for her success on the track team, Valdez will now try to make waves in her state cross-country debut.

“Probably will have more emotions once the time gets closer, but right now, I’m just looking forward to some hard practices and getting up there, doing what I’ve got to do,” Valdez said earlier this week. “It’s for sure going to be a really good experience; I’m both excited and nervous.”

Holley has given the Bobcat pair words to encouragement and advice this week.

“They’re going to have to run smart, pick a pack and run with that group,” Holley said.

“The course in Colorado Springs is a true cross-country course: You’ve got rolling hills, you’ve got prairie grass, dirt, you’ve got a creek bed. The girls are going to have to trust their training – they’ve seen these types of terrain before – and understand that speed may not be the ultimate factor here.”

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