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Reduced, rerouted Bayfield Invite endures

Two runners-up for BHS at weather-altered meet
Bayfield's Wrenalee Moore catches some mid-stride air with less than a mile to go in the high school girls race at the 2023 BHS Invitational on Saturday. Moore placed second on the rain-altered Pine Valley Church/Dove Ranch course. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Saturday morning, the parking lot at Pine Valley Church could have looked like a refugee camp.

Bayfield cross-county head coach Josh Walton, you see, had offered to accommodate any harriers displaced and denied by the previous afternoon’s storm system, which effectively washed out the Ouray-hosted Ramble at the Reservoir just north of neighboring Ridgway. But with the 2023 BHS Invitational also potentially jeopardized due to a sudden deluge, Walton and his coaching staff really couldn’t concern themselves much with who might come; they had to make sure there was still a reason to.

Even if that meant nearly eliminating one of the PVC/Dove Ranch course’s signature features, Walton’s Hill.

“After the storm hit here between 4 and 5, it made our main starting line just impassable to where we were like, ‘OK, we’ve got to figure out a new course,’” Walton said. “We were looking through our minds … making a bunch of ideas as to how best to put together a course. Ran through it a couple times, tried a couple different loops … just seeing what was passable, and it came together pretty well.”

The new course also posed quite a challenge with the opening mile nearly all uphill, making many of the recorded times all the more impressive – and even more so when the committed entrants, including the Wolverines, arrived on site not knowing what they were in for.

“Yeah, it was a lot different,” said BHS sophomore Porter Sutherlin. “I like the other course – the one we usually do – a lot more; it’s more difficult, which gives it more character and makes it unique. But … so no one slipped and fell with all the mud and stuff, we had to do – for safety reasons – what we had to do.”

Bayfield's Porter Sutherlin negotiates a forested section of the rain-altered Pine Valley Church/Dove Ranch course on Saturday at the 2023 BHS Invitational. Sutherlin finished a strong second in the high school boys race. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

“This morning when we walked it, we were like, ‘This is not the same,’” sophomore Wrenalee Moore said. “We even got lost when we were walking the course – I was pretty nervous.”

But after middle-schoolers’ feet and abundant sunshine combined to dry out the softened ground, the invitational’s high school runners got down to business and Bayfield came away with two runners-up.

Setting a pace which only Pagosa Springs junior Sienna Rose ended up bettering, Moore led the Bayfield girls with a second-place time of 23 minutes, 46.87 seconds. Rose clocked a winning 23:37.56, and junior Charlotte Duranton (a foreign-exchange student) finished third in 24:44.58. Helping PSHS win the team title, freshman Kaiya Lyons placed fourth in 25:03.53, and Montezuma-Cortez senior Savannah Haselroth (25:39.76) rounded out the top five.

BHS sophomore Mila Feely (29:13.57) came in eighth and junior Sage Flinders (30:38.22) 10th, with sophomore Kamala Smith (31:57.29) not far behind in 13th.

“Abigail Robertson’s hurt, so that’s why she wasn’t running,” Walton noted. “But the girls ran really well. Wrenalee even led most of the race until … this [gestures out at course] last little bit. Really excited to see how she does the next few weeks.”

“It was a challenge,” Moore said, “and I was pretty nervous throughout the whole thing, but I was thinking ‘I’ve got to stay in first.’ So it was pretty cool; I felt pretty good.”

Also out front for much of the boys’ feature, Sutherlin clocked a strong 19:35.22 and finished behind only PSHS senior Miles Baker (19:22.43). Placing seventh, sophomore Parker Perkerewicz (21:20.89) then led a pack of Wolverines across the relocated start/finish line as juniors Hunter Carroll (21:23.74), Sawyer Flinders (21:39.57) and Will Kennedy-Jones (21:39.91) finished 9-10-11 and freshman Cameron Mars (22:27.15) 12th.

“I went out a little too fast, didn’t leave enough for the end,” Sutherlin said. “But I think I did pretty well for the course. We did great … a lot of PRs for this meet. Kids did very, very well with their times or whatever they were hoping to do.”

Freshman Ryan Kurtz finished 14th (23:15.61), sophomore Tristan Bennett took 18th (24:56.00) and senior Alex Ion was 20th (26:16.80).

The Pirates, however, captured the team championship, with senior Levi Hinger (20:07.02) and junior Jesse Beck (20:08.99) finishing third and fourth.

BHS ended up second and M-CHS – led by freshman Cruz Plewe’s fifth-place 20:32.65 – third.

“Pagosa’s group came in after Porter, but then we were right after that,” Walton said. “So I’m really happy with how ‘packed’ we are; we’ve just got to get a little faster. We’re excited to see what happens this next weekend.”

Bayfield will run at the Delta-hosted Sweitzer Lake Invitational on Friday.

“We’re going to be on a really fast course,” Walton said. “We ran fast in Alamosa and we’re going to run faster in Delta.”

All told, the scaled-down Bayfield Invitational was still deemed a success.

“We didn’t have a lot of teams,” Walton conceded. “Sad that some other teams decided to go to Ouray’s and … then their meet got canceled! I offered, but for them it was just too much of a hassle to try and bring everything together to get over here.”

“But we pulled it together,” he said. “I didn’t think I made it any harder; I even had some of our middle-schoolers tell me that we need to make this our course from now on. But then I had high-schoolers tell me that this was harder than Leadville! So I don’t know …. But they all ran well; we had some really good times.”

“At those high-altitude races … it’s kind of disheartening having slower times,” said Sutherlin, alluding to the Lake County Invitational and others, “but then when you get back down here it feels way easier.”

“We have a couple people struggling with injuries and they powered through,” Moore said. “I’m proud of us as a whole.”


1. Pagosa Springs 14, 2. Bayfield 28, 3.Montezuma-Cortez 36.


1. Pagosa Springs 14, 2. Bayfield 28, 3.Montezuma-Cortez 36.

Bayfield's Will Kennedy-Jones lengthens his stride within the final mile of the 2023 BHS Invitational this past Saturday morning, Sept. 16, on the rain-altered Pine Valley Church/Dove Ranch course. Kennedy-Jones placed 11th in the high school boys' race. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)