Basalt runner tests Berggren as Middle Park cross country team performs well |

Basalt runner tests Berggren as Middle Park cross country team performs well

Photo by Courtney McCreaBasalt's Chiara Del Piccolo runs neck-and-neck with Middle Park standout Smantha Berggren at the Longhorn Invitational in Basalt on Saturday, Sept. 6. Berggren mustered a strong kick at the end of the race to win by four seconds.

Middle Park High’s top female runner was challenged during the season’s second cross country race but still powered to another victory.

Racing at the Longhorn Invitational in Basalt on Saturday, Sept. 6, Panther sophomore Samantha Berggren ran to a first-place finish in the girls’ 5-kilometer race in a time of 19:42.

Finishing five seconds behind Berggren was Basalt’s Chiara Del Piccolo with a time of 19:47. Third place went to Johanna Reed of Hotchkiss with 20:37.

“At the one-mile mark, the three of them were running together,” said Panther coach Jim ‘Cajun’ Courville. “At the two-mile point, it was just the two of them. At the end, Sam made a big kick and pulled ahead about 40 meters to cross the finish line first. It was a well played-out race and Sam was very much in control.”

Saturday’s win was the second of the 2008 season for Berggren, who also won the season-opening cross country race at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins the previous weekend. During her freshman season in 2007, she won all but two of her races, including finishing as the runner-up in the state meet.

“Last season, Sam was an unknown but now she has a big target on her back,” Courville said. “In this race, the Basalt runner tried to get past her a couple of times, but Sam handled it well. She’s running with good strategy this year. This was Sam’s best race so far this season.”

Girls improving

Berggren’s success is part of the Panther girls’ larger effort for the 2008 season. They are once again setting their sights set on the league, regional and state meets in October.

In Saturday’s race in Basalt, Middle Park’s girls finished fourth out of the six teams that earned team points.

“Coach Courtney McCrea and I are very pleased with how they ran,” Courville said. “They’re already much improved since the first race. Even though we raced at a higher altitude in Basalt than we did in Fort Collins, our girls demonstrated they are getting stronger and faster.”

Panther sophomore Samantha Miyauchi also had a good race Saturday, finishing in ninth place out of the 63 runners who finished the girls 5K. Her time was 23:17.

The team’s four other female runners also ran fast races, finishing close to one another. Kelly Little took 32nd place with a time of 25:31 with her teammate Hannah Garcia finishing only a second behind her to take 33rd place.

Middle Park’s Jessica Bondi came in next for 34th place with a time of 26:14. Melissa Plum rounded out the team’s effort with a time of 26:16 for 37th place.

Boys running well

Middle Park’s boys also turned in fast races during the Longhorn Invitational. It was the first time this season the Panthers earned a team place, taking sixth out of seven teams.

In the individual results, Middle Park’s Nathaniel Ziegler had another strong race. He covered the 5K course in a time of 19:50 to take 11th place behind Rifle’s Dustin Ross, who won first place in 18:08.

The rest of the Panther boys ran good races Saturday. Their results are: 27. Jared Cooper, 21:24; 39. Matthew Curran, 22:44; and 45. Hugh McDonough, 23:57.

“This was Matt Curran’s first race of the season and the first time we had a team score because we finally had four runners,” Courville said. “You kind of cut it close when you only have four runners on a boys team, but now we have everybody online.”

Courville said he is generally pleased with the team’s results so far this season.

“Cross country is not an instant-gratification type of sport, and it’s still early in this season,” he said. “We need to give our runners more time and more races to get them ready for October. But right now, Courtney and I are very proud of how well our runners are doing.”

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