The Rocky Mountain Grizzlies closed out the 2013 cross-country season with a strong performance at the state meet in Sheridan Saturday on a perfect fall day.
The Rocky boys placed four runners in the top 25 to place fourth, just behind the Lovell Bulldogs and ahead of Pine Bluffs/Burns. Wyoming Indian won its seventh consecutive state title wi th 20 points followed by Saratoga with 58 points, Lovell 62, Rocky 70, Pine Bluffs/Burns 78 and Moorcroft 99 in the field of nine squads.
“What a great day in Sheridan,” Coach John Bernhisel said. “I feel like each of my athletes gave the kind of performance that you would hope for in the state championship. All I can ask for is for everybody to warm up well, work hard and finish with everything they have.
“The weather in Sheridan may have been the nicest I’ve ever seen at a state cross-country meet. At race time it was about 60 degrees and sunny with no wind. I haven’t been in high school in a ‘few’ years, but my competitive spirit was high and I felt like jumping in the race.”
Burlington Nate Davidson closed out his career with a 12th-place finish, recording a time of 18:18.97, just eight seconds out of the top 10, and Rocky freshman Dominic Twomey placed 16th with a time of 10:01.51, junior Casey Banks 21st at 19:25.31 and sophomore Payton Thomas 25th at 19:38.97.
Rounding out the Rocky runners were senior Jake Loyning in 35th with a time of 20:32.17, Burlington sophomore Jared Tolman 44th in 21:33.60 and freshman Zach Milbrad 49th in 22:42.42. There were 56 runners in the boys race.
“Dominic Twomey deserves special recognition,” Bernhisel said. “A 19:01 for a freshman is outstanding, and we are both excited for the next few years.”
The Rocky Mountain girls placed sixth out of eight teams with 112 points, just three points behind Wright and six points ahead of Moorcroft. Pine Bluffs/Burns captured the team trophy.
Senior Kelly Vezain led a pack of four Rocky runners in the middle of the 49 competitors, placing 27th with a time of 26:08.44. Just behind her was junior Denice Escalante at 26:21.49, followed by Cassy Vezain in 30th at 26:32.70 and Burlington sophomore Zariah Tolman 36th at 27:47.24.
“The four seniors I had this year are going to be hard to replace,” Bernhisel said. “Jake Loyning and Nate Davidson have run with me since middle school, and Cassy and Kelly Vezain have come out the past three years. They have all been team leaders, great examples and motivated and successful runners.
“I’m excited about our team places (fourth and sixth). At the 2A level it is often difficult to even field a team.”
Assistant coach Penny Tolman said she was also proud of the Rocky/Burlington squad.
“Some of the runners are really nervous and scared before the race but prove to themselves that they can overcome their fears,” she said. “Others are confident but accept the outcome in spite of disappointments. A few of our runners were fighting physical ailments but chose to run for the team.
“After the race we had already loaded the bus and noticed a lone runner who was still on the course because she had twisted her ankle on a rock early in the race but was determined to finish. Coach Bernhisel quickly encouraged our team to unload the bus and cheer for her as she walked by. Everyone jumped up quickly to offer encouragement because that’s the kind of character each one of our runners has inside. It’s an honor to work with such incredible youth.”
Tolman said she will also miss the seniors.
“Thanks to Nate Davidson, Jake Loyning, Cassy Vezain and Kelly Vezain for being a great part of our team during their senior years. They will be missed,” Coach Tolman said. “Also, thanks to Mindy Mickelson for all of the volunteer time and great coaching she does for our team.”
by David Peck