Heritage cross country coaches Lori Lee and Sheri Rossing spent a lot of time scrutinizing weather reports and watching reports of the devastating flooding in some parts of Colorado.
Lee, director for the Liberty Bell Invitational cross country meet, and Rossing made the difficult decision to go ahead and run the event as planned Sept. 13.
Instead of the usual 92 teams, only 55 were able to make it. So instead of the usual 4,230 runners, there were 2,500 competing in Littleton.
Most teams from Wyoming and Larimer, Boulder and Weld counties were unable to participate. Several Denver-area school districts canceled activities, and teams didn't get notification that it was OK to take part until it was too late.
“There was a lot of controversy of whether to hold the meet or not,” said Rossing, who was the assistant meet director and head Heritage boys coach. “We felt that the teams that had it on their schedule that could make it, we owed it to them to go ahead and host the meet.
“We feel sad there were several teams that couldn't make it. There were some big powerhouses that couldn't make it.”
Several coaches and parents were miffed at the decision to run the Invitational as scheduled.
“It was either do it for those teams that could make it or cancel it totally,” explained Rossing. “I wish there could have been another time for us to postpone. We couldn't push it to Saturday because we have churches in our area that have weddings and everything else on Saturdays.
“We couldn't do that with the parking. And there was no other weekend to do it because every other team had meets they were going to. You kind of have to go with the flow sometimes because of Mother Nature.”
Weather conditions were good for the 18 races that were held in the half-strength meet, but it was stormy at the finish of the boys Division I race.
Albuquerque Academy, which has won 12 New Mexico state boys championships in the past 17 years and seven Liberty Bell titles since 2002, had five runners finish in the top 12, but their actions at the finish line caused officials to disqualify the team.
“That was the first time we've ever had a team DQ'd,” said Rossing. “It was for their unbelievable, unacceptable behavior after they crossed the finish line. They knocked down part of the chute and it wasn't just one boy, it was several boys that were involved. With the other kids coming in behind them we were lucky we got times and places for the other kids because of what they did in the chute. Our games committee disqualified them.
“Parents and other coaches that were standing there totally agreed with us with what we did. I understand on the MileSplit website there is some controversy and people chiming in and saying we shouldn't have done all this, but they are dead wrong.”
Albuquerque Academy coach Adam Kedge did not appeal the disqualification and the boys were allowed to keep their individual medals.
“I felt bad about it but their coach didn't appeal it,” continued Rossing. “He knew it was appropriate with what we did. He knew what they did was wrong. I feel so bad for him. You don't come into the finish line like that and knock things over, curse like they did.
“We let the kids keep their medals but we didn't give them the trophy. We are going to go ahead and order new medals. This is costing us money. Losing 37 teams with their entry fees, we are going to refund their money. Now we are going to have to go buy new medals because of what happened and send those out to the other kids.”
Arapahoe senior Louis Hood, who finished second in the boys Division 1 race with a time of 15:53, was listed as the champion after the disqualification of Albuquerque's Kyle Carrozza.
“This has been my best season so far,” said Hood. “I kind of like to race for time. I like to get as far up as I can in the standings and try to beat people. The conditions were beautiful, not too hot.”
Douglas County's Jake Lucero was credited with a second-place finish in 16:11, while Arapahoe's Mason Brevig, Nick Petersen and Nick Moore came in sixth, seventh and 10th to give the Warriors the Division I team title.
Arapahoe coach Chuck Lutz was surprised when he saw his team accepting the first-place trophy.
“I was so focused on all the races that were going on that it wasn't until I saw the boys on the risers and they handed us the first-place hardware,” said Lutz. “Then I started to get a little bit of information funneled in about a disqualification.
“I think my guys ran super. They had a great race. They really had a great nice pack. Louis had an excellent race. It was the first time he ever gone sub-16. We ran a perfect score in both the JV races. In the open race, which is not scored, we had another perfect score. Those two races were all Arapahoe.”
Arapahoe's Emily Wolf was third in the girls Division I race with a time of 18:23 and the Warriors were sixth in the team standings in the race won by the Albuquerque Academy girls.
Jake Blackburn of Rock Canyon ran sixth in the boys Division 2 competition with a time of 16:22, and the Jaguars' Phoebe Schneider was fourth in the girls race in 18:45.
Heritage, paced by Zach Polonsky's 12th-place finish, won the boys Division 2 race with Rock Canyon coming in second and ThunderRidge third. Pine Creek won the girls Division 2 race with ThunderRidge second, Rock Canyon fourth and Heritage sixth.
“The boys are coming along and doing a great job,” said Rossing. “They are getting better and better each week which is exciting. Zach is a senior and he really stepped forward. He really took control of our pack. He had an exceptional race. The other kid that had an exceptional race was Lee Mahoney, who really stepped up as my fifth runner. It was because of him and Zach that we won.”
Despite headaches involved with hosting the meet, Rossing praised the Cheyenne Mountain team for helping with the cleanup that also included the Heritage team.
“It was so cool that the Cheyenne Mountain kids came over and helped us tear down the chutes at the end of the meet,” said Rossing. “That was a lot of work. Without even being asked, that team stepped forward. I've been coaching for 33 years now, I've never had a team pitch in and clean up at the Liberty Bell.”
Local top finishers
The following is a list of local top-10 finishers in the Liberty Bell Invitational Cross County Meet held Sept. 13 at Heritage High School.
• Boys Division 1 — 1. Louis Hood, Arapahoe, 15:53; 2. Jack Lucero, Douglas County, 16:11; 6. Mason Brevig, Arapahoe, 16:33; 7. Nick Petersen, Arapahoe, 16:34; 10. Nick Moore, Arapahoe, 16:43.
• Girls Division 1 — 3. Emily Wolff, Arapahoe, 18:23.
• Boys Division 2 — 6. Jake Blackburn, Rock Canyon, 16:22.
• Girls Division 2 — 4. Phoebe Schneider,Rock Canyon, 18:45; 7. Kamryn Hart, ThunderRidge, 19:01; 8. Annika Reuter, Heritage, 19:05; 10. Lina Krueck, ThunderRidge, 19:06.
• Boys Division 3 — 7. Ashton Grisson, Valor Chrisitan, 16:59; 9. Chad Glover, Englewood, 17:13; 10. Aidan Cusick, Valor Christian, 17:14.
• Girls Division 3 — 8. Taylor Spieker, Valor Christian, 21:14.