Girls Cross Country Places Second at State, Boys Place Eighth

The Creek Girls and Boys Cross-Country teams placed well at State, but not as well as they’d hoped


Samantha Pemberton

Senior Riley Stewart wins her third state title with a time of 17:20, 12 seconds faster than her time last year. Stewart signs to continue her running career at Stanford University on Nov. 10. “I’m excited for the future,” Stewart said.

Katya Roudakov, Staff Writer

The Cherry Creek cross country team competed in the State Championships last Saturday, pulling off a second place girls’ finish and eighth place for the boys.

Senior Riley Stewart won her third consecutive state title, but the girl’s team, who came in first place last year, couldn’t quite secure a repeat victory. Despite multiple high-scoring seniors having graduated, the boys’ team managed to place higher at this year’s championship than they did last year. Head Coach Ethan Dusto was overall pleased with the team’s performance.

“We set a goal for top three for the girls and top 10 for the boys,” Dusto said. “And we achieved both of those.”

Affecting the athletes’ performances was a combination of pressure, illness, and fatigue from an unusually long running season. A sickness made its rounds through the majority of the team just before State, hindering confidence and performance alike.

“That brought our courage down a little bit, considering everyone was sick,” Stewart said.

Being sick not only harms the morale of athletes and worsens their performances, but also has the potential to take some completely out of the competition. Though the health of the team isn’t entirely controllable, Sophomore Daniel Hruska noted that it was something to try to improve for next season.

Hruska placed 19th, and was Creek’s highest-scoring boy. He attributed much of the boys’ team success to teamwork.

“Even the seniors who have had four years of the team mentioned that they never had a team this tightly knit,” Hruska said.

Without standout high scorers, the boys’ team needed to band together. In cross country, the scores of a team’s top five runners are added, and the team with the lowest combined score wins. Having a first-place runner is valuable, since that only adds a value of one to the combined score, but it’s still possible to place highly without any record-breaking performances.

Last year, Creek senior Parker Wolfe won first place. Without his high scores helping out, the boys’ team faced a major challenge this year, needing multiple athletes to score well in order to have a chance at the top 10. They rose to this challenge, with their top five runners getting the 19th, 30th, 54th, 56th, and 101st places.

On the other hand, expectations were high for the girls’ team, having won State last year for the first time since 2006.

“We dealt a little bit with the pressure to come back after having such a high success season,” Dusto said. “That definitely was something that was looming over us, and we never really got out of that shadow.”

For Stewart, the stakes were even higher, since this was her last high school race at the state level. As the crowd favorite to win and reigning champion, the pressure was on for another good performance.

“I wanted to win again,” Stewart said. “I wanted to have a good race to finish my season in Colorado.”

Stewart succeeded in that, shaving 12 seconds off of her time from last year.

On top of the pressure, a COVID-affected track and field season last spring extended into cross country pre-season, meaning that the many athletes on both teams got little rest between the two.

“I know I’m pretty burned out, and so I can’t imagine how much my kids, who were doing all that running, are burned out,” Dusto said.

Fatigue certainly seemed to have an effect on Creek’s runners. More normalcy in the track season this spring is likely to set cross country on a path to further success next year.

The future for Creek remains bright, with two freshmen performing well at State, and improvements seen from the rest of the team. Hruska aims for a top ten finish next year. Stewart, continuing her running career at Stanford University next fall, is optimistic.

“I’m excited for the future and excited for what’s in store for this team in the next few years as well,” Stewart said.