West Grand XC honors seniors before diving into the mud
5K course for Mustangs invite got soaked prior to race
The Mustangs cross country team trudged through a muddy 5K Saturday morning during the West Grand Invitational, a race that slowed times but sent the fun factor through the roof for many of its competitors.
Rainfall on Thursday and Friday was followed by a foggy Saturday morning, and the sun had little chance to burn off the precipitation, collected in humongous mud puddles scattered across the course.
Naturally, a number of runners were drenched by the time they reached the finish line. Some seemed to really enjoy the challenge; others not as much, as some runners slipped and fell into the puddles.
“Nobody was going to be running a fast time with the massive mud pits, but I feel like we’re going to be where we want to be at the end of the season,” Mustangs coach Ryan Tripicchio said after Saturday’s race.
He added that the team’s goal right now is to stay focused and have fun, and he has “a good feeling (the Mustangs) are going to have a lot of fun before the season is all said and done.”
Leading the way for the boys on Saturday was Galen Wilkinson, one of three seniors running cross country this fall and the only one on the boys squad.
Wilkinson made state in 2019 and holds the school record for the boys 5K. At the Mustangs’ invite, Wilkinson finished seventh overall in 21 minutes, 57 seconds, the top time for the Mustangs.
“We’re really hoping to see what we can do, because he has some big goals this year,” Tripicchio said of the lone senior on his boys team.
In a tight pack behind Wilkinson, West Grand saw Brayden James, Henry Westfahl and Alejo Aguilar-Pineiro take the 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively. From James to Aguilar-Pineiro, the Mustangs were separated by only six seconds.
“It’s been really, really nice to have a lot of those guys return,” Tripicchio said of his boys squad.
Rounding out West Grand’s lineup in the 5K, Wyatt Guthrie was 40th at 28:54, Esteban Aguilar-Pineiro was 42nd at 29:43, Dean Ratcliff was 43rd at 31:16 and Vincent Schenk was 47th at 34:21.
As a goal, the boys would like to qualify for state as a team.
“We really want to try to take as many as we can (to state), and that boys group has some big aspirations,” Tripicchio said.
For the Mustang girls, West Grand doesn’t have numbers this year, but the team has talent, including senior Allura Luna, a home school student who’s been fast for the cross country team for four years running.
“She is a joy to coach,” Tripicchio said of Luna. “She is in tune with her body. She is going to be someone to look out for at the 2A level.”
Lillie Steinle rounds out three seniors on the Mustangs team. She ran with West Grand last year, and she is focused on making a strong impression in her last year with the Mustangs squad.
On Saturday, Luna took third overall at 23:36 and Steinle finished 26th at 30:33.
Also on the girls team this year, Tripicchio said that Sarah Lechman has “very bravely” gone out for both cross country and volleyball. Also, sophomore Louisa Parmenter is working her way into the lineup after just recently joining the cross country team. Naturally, the coach is excited to see what both runners can bring to the team.
Before Saturday’s race, Tripicchio also introduced his three seniors with their friends and families. He revealed that, after graduation, Wilkinson is aiming to become a wildland fire fighter based in Steamboat Springs while Luna is looking to take a gap year and Steinle is planning on becoming a musician and faith leader.
Up next, West Grand cross country will race at the St. Vrain Invite on Sept. 18 in Lyons. Then the Mustangs are off to Moffat County on Sept. 25 before going to Delta on Oct. 1.
The race in Delta always serves as a good tune up for the regional meet that’s held on the same course and is often where West Grand sees some of its fastest times of the year.
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