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Cross country: Middle Park girls relish first trip to State

by Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News
Will Bublitz/Sky-Hi Daily News
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Giving it all she had, Middle Park High’s top female runner raced to a second-place finish in the 2007 Colorado High School Cross Country Championships in Colorado Springs on Saturday.

Panther freshman Samantha Berggren crossed the finish line at the El Pomar Youth Recreation Area’s 5-kilometer course with a time of 19:37.9. She finished in second place behind the winner, Kaitlin Hanenburg, a Colorado Academy sophomore, who finished in 18:42.9. Third place was taken by Emily Husted, a Colorado Academy freshman who raced the course in 20:00.05.

Berggren, who had won both the district and regional championship titles over the two previous weeks, began Saturday’s 5K just as she has in every other race this season by sprinting immediately into the lead. She maintained that lead for about the first kilometer with Hanenburg gradually cutting down the gap.

By the 2-kilometer point, Hanenburg was in the lead but Berggren was maintaining close contact. But the blistering pace set by the Colorado Academy sophomore proved too much for Middle Park’s freshman, who held on tight to her second-place spot which was never seriously challenged by the other 150 runners trailing behind her.

“It felt really fast, faster than any other race I’ve been in this season,” Berggren said. “I thought I could keep up with her. The State meet was not what I expected. But there is always next year and I’m looking forward to coming back. I had fun, and our team did really well.”

Berggren’s effort, combined with that of her teammates, added up to the Middle Park team finishing 11th in the 25-team competition for the girls’ 3A division. It was the best results for the Panther girls team in its history at the State championships.

In Saturday’s overall results for the 3A competition, Colorado Academy was the clear winner, followed by Peak to Peak which finished as the runner-up. Third place was taken by Roosevelt.

“What was really great is that we beat Holy Family,” said Panther junior Ryndi Zastrow. “This was the first time we did it this season.”

Holy Family’s Tigers finished 13th in Saturday’s team results.

Zastrow, a junior, was Middle Park’s second fastest runner Saturday. She completed the 5K in a time of 21:50.3 for 50th place. It was her first time competing in the state championships.

“I didn’t expect it to be so physical,” she said. “Going around turns and corners, other girls were elbowing and trying to trip me. The state meet was a lot bigger and harder than I counted on, but I definitely learned a lot for next year.”

Samantha Miyauchi, a freshman and the team’s “other Sam,” was the Panthers’ third fastest runner Saturday, posting a time of 22:09.9 to place 66th. She agreed with Zastrow, saying the level of competition at the state meet was a real eye-opener for a first-time racer.

“We weren’t used to that kind of a start which was so crowded and congested,” she said. “I felt like I had to fight my way up forward during the entire race. Now I know that in a big race like that you’ve got to get out front at the start. I’ll be a lot more ready for it next year.”

Finishing as the team’s fourth runner was junior Jessica Bondi. She ran the course in 23:55.9 for 133rd place.

“Being able to compete in the State meet was by far the best experience I’ve ever had running,” she said. “I’m definitely looking forward to racing here again next year.”

Rounding out the Panther girls team at Colorado Springs was sophomore Hannah Garcia, who finished right behind Bondi in 134th place with a time of 23:58.8.

“It was really exciting to compete in my first State championships,” she said. “It was a lot of fun. It’s great to be a part of a great team.”

Panther junior Kelly Little was the team’s alternate and did not race Saturday but was there to cheer on her teammates.

“The state meet is incredible and our runners did an amazing job,” she said. “I plan to be racing here next year.”


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