Heraty nabs state spot with third-place regional finish

Photo courtesy Steven Long
The Pirate cross-country teams pose at Friday’s regional competition in Durango. The girls’ squad finished sixth and the boys’ team finished fifth, with every Pirate runner logging either a personal record or a season-best time.

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The Pagosa Springs High School Pirate cross-country teams may only be sending one harrier, senior Gabe Heraty, on to state, but the teams still finished the season strong at last weekend’s regional competition, with every Pirate runner either setting a personal record (PR) or logging their best time of the season.

“I honestly think both teams did great. We had 8 out of 12 runners earn a personal record and the other 4 runners who didn’t earn a PR earned a season best time. Every single person ran their best possible race, and that is all we can ask for at the end of the season,” coach Rachael Christiansen wrote in an email to The SUN.

Heraty set a PR of 16 minutes, 49 seconds at the regional meet in Durango, finishing third and earning a spot among the 100 3A runners at Saturday’s state competition at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs.

Heraty is scheduled to run in the first wave Saturday, with the boys’ race starting at noon.

All results can be found at www.chsaanow.com on the day of the race. The state championships will be streamed live, with the link available through CHSAANow.

Heraty’s 16:49 finish at regionals also accomplished a season goal for the senior — finishing in under 17 minutes.

“He knew he was qualifying before the race was over,” coach Rachael Christiansen wrote of Heraty’s qualifying run. “We had a plan and he executed it perfectly. I think he was more excited about breaking that 17 minute mark as that was his season goal! He said when he came around the finishing straight and saw 16 minutes on the clock, he knew he could do it and gave everything he had to cross the line under 17.”

Photo courtesy Steven Long
Pirate senior Gabe Heraty runs to a third-place finish at Friday’s regional meet. Heraty earned a spot to compete in the state meet and will race Saturday at noon.

Now, Heraty will be looking to capitalize on his confidence running on hillier courses to perform well at state.

“State is not an easy course,” Christiansen explained. “Mile 2 has 2 long and difficult climbs and then just before the finish there is a short but steep climb. However, Gabe has trained for hills. He is confident on hills and has had great successes on hilly courses (1st place in Dolores, 2nd place in Pagosa) so we believe he is capable of a strong showing at state. He’s going to use those hills to make up ground on his opponents and move up in the race. I would like for him to make the biggest moves on the climb at the end of mile 2. At our home meet, this is where he was able to break away from Zeb (Bayfield) and focus on chasing Josh (Alamosa) down.”

This week, Christiansen explained, Heraty is tapering into the state run and is working on fine-tuning with speed workouts and decreasing overall mileage and is also focusing on nutrition and hydration.

“His training has gotten him to this point, now we need to make sure he is properly fueled for Saturday,” she explained.

Heraty’s third place helped the Pirates to a fifth-place finish out of the 12 teams at regionals.

“Everyone on the boys team ran an amazing race. We had 3 runners hit HUGE milestones,” Christiansen wrote, referring to Heraty, David Morehouse and Andrew Bowles.

Morehouse, a junior who ran the course in 18:29 to finish 25th, set a new PR and broke the 19-minute mark for the first time.

“David blew me away as he had only broken the 20 minute mark once this season,” the coach wrote. “That was a big accomplishment on his end.”

Bowles, a sophomore, followed in 18:48 to be the 31st runner across the line — also a PR and his first time breaking the 19-minute mark.

“As for Andrew, that kid is unstoppable. He just keeps getting better and better each day,” the coach added.

Levi Hinger, a freshman, served as the team’s final scoring runner, finishing 38th in 19:18 — a PR.

“Levi also ran a great race and earned a PR of 19:18. He looked strong throughout the race, even though he was battling an injury over the last few weeks,” Christiansen wrote.

Senior Clayton Cayard joined in the PR fun and broke the 20-minute mark for the first time with a time of 19:51 to finish 48th.

Noah Weiszbrod rounded out the Pirate runners by finishing 52nd out of the 72 runners and setting a PR time of 20:10.

“That is highly impressive,” Christiansen stated of all six Pirate runners setting a PR on the day.

The Lady Pirates also had a strong day on the course, finishing sixth out of 10 teams.

The team was led on the day by senior Megan Greenly, who finished 18th with a time of 21:09.

“Megan was in the second heat, a full minute behind the first heat and she actually caught some of the girls from the 1st heat! That was amazing! It was one of the best races I’ve seen her run,” Christiansen wrote.

Greenly was followed by junior Nell Taylor, who finished 25th in 21:51, and junior Sierra Liverett, who finished tied for 27th with a time of 21:59.

“Sierra has been battling knee and hip issues since a sophomore but she came out and ran a strong 21:59. That was by far her best race of this season and I was impressed by how well she ran,” the coach stated.

Close behind was Michelle Sauceda, who finished 29th with a time of 22:02.

Ivory Carpenter logged a time of 22:22 to finish 33rd, and RuthAnn Morehouse finished 42nd out of the 65 runners with a time of 23:03 — both PRs.

“I have never seen Ivory work as hard as she did on Friday,” Christiansen wrote. “It was beautiful to watch!!”

Christiansen noted that, while the teams didn’t make state, the runners felt good about their individual races.

“We knew going into regionals that it would be tough for us to qualify because our region is fast and full of very talented teams. However, we were still hopeful we could pull off an upset and sneak into that 3rd place spot on both sides,” she explained, adding, “Everyone left everything out on that course and there was no doubt each runner gave 100%. That was what we had control over. We can’t control who we compete against, but we can control how well we compete. After the race, we knew we competed to the best of our abilities. When we found we didn’t qualify there was certainly some disappointment and tears, but it was amazing to see how quickly the team rebounded and started talking about what they need to do for next year. The focus and determination is already there, and that is amazing!”

She added, “All season long we talked about the reasons why they run cross country, and the responses are always ‘for the team’ and ‘because of the people on the team’ and that was more apparent than ever Friday.

And although the season is officially over for all of the Pirate harriers except Heraty, they haven’t given up on training as a team.

“They are doing it to cheer on Gabe, but also to continue to run with each other. They are a family,” Christiansen wrote, relaying, “After the race RuthAnn said ‘I’m sad we aren’t going to state, but I am more sad that I won’t be running with these girls anymore’.”

Christiansen noted her response: “Why can’t you run with these girls? There is nothing stopping you.”

 “That’s the beauty about running, we just need to lace up our shoes and go,” the coach wrote. “I also think it comes back to that focus and determination for next year as well. This year was tough. Our region is tough. If we want to be a contender then we are going to need to work year-round. This season just ended for them, but next season is just beginning.”