By Randi Pierce
Pagosa Springs High School senior Gabe Heraty finished off his high school cross-country career with a ninth-place finish at last weekend’s state meet in Colorado Springs.
Heraty logged a time of 16 minutes, 58.8 seconds — 51 seconds off the 3A state title time.
“I would say he ran a perfect race,” coach Rachael Christiansen said.
Christiansen explained that they had talked about a game plan of positions for Heraty to aim to be at certain points in the race, passing one or two runners on each hill to capitalize on his strength.
“He did it perfectly,” she said.
At the bottom of the race’s final hill, she explained, Heraty was in 11th, and with one-tenth of a mile left, he was in ninth.
Then Christiansen lost sight of Heraty and was left wondering if he held on to that positioning, which he had.
“He ran such a good race,” she said.
But, like his coach, Heraty didn’t initially know where he placed after crossing the finish line, and she didn’t see him right away to tell him.
“They actually held him after they finished,” she said, and she didn’t see him for about 10 minutes after the race, leaving her and her assistant coach worrying about if something was wrong with him.
Heraty also didn’t realize he was being held because he was in the top 10.
“He didn’t realize he was top 10,” she said, adding that he apparently thought he was somewhere in the top 15 and may have been disqualified or something.
“So when he came out I was, like, screaming and, like, so excited and he … had this look of just pure confusion. And I told him, I was like, ‘Gabe, you made top 10, you’re number nine,’ and his face lit up,” she recalled.
Once it sank in, she reported, he was really excited and celebrated with ginger ale.
In a later email, Christiansen noted that, following the finish, Heraty stated, “I did it for the team,” which brought tears to her eyes.
Heraty was the third harrier from Region 1 (the Pirates’ region) across the line at state, echoing Heraty’s regional finish.
Also from Region 1, Gunnison’s Alex Baca took the state title with a time of 16:07.8, and Alamosa’s Joshua Medina took second with a time of 16:09.0.
Bayfield’s Zeb Shield’s finished 12th at the state meet with a time of 17:04.9.
Alamosa took fourth in the team scoring, while Gunnison took fifth.
Christiansen noted that the trip itself was also nice, and Heraty was able to partake in a team tradition that, in normal years, happens before the season ever starts — going to Zapata falls and doing a push-up in the waterfall.
“Even with just one athlete it was nice to get a couple traditions done for the year,” Christiansen said.
The coach noted it was a weird year, and at the beginning of the season, the teams began focusing on taking nothing for granted.
“I think as the year went on we executed on that,” she said, noting the harriers enjoyed each other’s company, laughed and smiled.
The teams also had many runners improve over the season, which the coach hopes will carry over to next season.
“We have to get better every single day we’re at practice,” Christiansen said, adding an offseason conditioning program is in the works to help encourage continued progress.
The team is losing nine runners to graduation this year.
“Every single senior on the XC team this year is going to be greatly missed!” Christiansen wrote in an email. “Each runner brought so much laughter and dedication to the team and it will be hard to move on without these wonderful people.”
The coach reflected on each of those runners in the email:
Heraty: “He became such a wonderful leader on the team. He is mature, honest, and dedicated to not only improving himself, but also the entire team.”
Ivory Carpenter: “She is focused. Every day she showed up willing to work as hard as possible. She worked through the off season and proved herself to be not only a great runner, but also a great teammate.”
Clayton Cayard: “Clayton is guaranteed to bring some laughter to the team. He is light hearted and fun.”
Megan Greenly: “Megan is the definition of happiness. She is always laughing and smiling and cracking little jokes throughout practice.”
Kylie Keuning: “Even though Kylie was injured and didn’t race with us at all this year, she decided to stick around and help out in any way possible. And, she helped out a ton!”
Peyton Khung: “Peyton has had a few ups and downs over the course of running cross country for 4 years. However, even when things didn’t go her way, she didn’t quit. She stuck it out and I am very grateful she did!”
Sophia Raymond: “Like Peyton, Sophia has dealt with many ups and downs over the years. But again, she stayed very positive and very focused. She did not let those disappointments take over. Instead, she kept pushing herself!”
Cole Reis: “Cole dealt with quite a few injuries this year, but he always kept pushing himself. He is not one to quit. Ever. (Even when he should!)”
Noah Weiszbrod: “Noah just constantly improved. Every day he showed up, he got better. Each race he raced, he got better. Even when the course was harder, he improved his time!”