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Cortez-area cross-country teams grow into new season

Mancos' Teagan Archer (97) passes Dolores' Maya Lowe during the high-school girls race at the Boggy Draw Bear Chase in 2021. Archer placed eighth, and Lowe 10th. Joel Priest/Special to The Journal
Dolores, Mancos and Montezuma-Cortez get ready to toe the line

Much like the reservoirs across Southwest Colorado earlier this year, numbers for the Montezuma County cross-country programs are on the rise.

With a new season on the horizon, Dolores, Mancos and Montezuma-Cortez enter the season with some common goals – continued growth and improvement over the many miles ahead.

The trio of programs will see plenty of one another over the next couple of months, beginning this weekend in Dolores, where the Boggy Draw Bear Chase continues its tradition of opening up the season. The course will also serve as a 2A regional host site when Dolores invites in the rest of the region in mid-October.

Mancos and Dolores will share the stage Saturday morning, as the Bluejays seek a return trip to the 2A state championships in the girls race, where Mancos has posted back-to-back 10th-place finishes. Dolores, meanwhile, has high aspirations of their own, having narrowly missed out on an elusive team qualification last year.

“For the first time ever, we’ve got full boys and girls teams for both the high school and middle school,” said Dolores head coach Angie Lowe. “The numbers keep growing, and its been through building a culture.”

A strong junior class leads the way for the Dolores girls, with a quartet of returners led by Maya and Elia Lowe getting the Bears ready for the upcoming campaign. “They’ve been running together since third grade with Girls on the Run,” said the Dolores head coach, “and we’re hoping that this will be a breakout year for them.”

On the boys side, a number of freshman join the varsity squad, with sophomore Aaron Nielson preparing to provide leadership for the team.

Elia Lowe of Dolores High School was the runner-up in the 2022 Bayfield Cross-Country Invitational. Joel Priest/Special to The Journal
Mancos sophomore Adaline Kearns was 47th in the 2022 CHSAA Cross-Country State Championships' Class 2A race in Colorado Springs. (Joel Priest/Special to The Journal)

For Mancos, making the state meet, while always near the top of the team goals for the season, is never anything to take for granted, according to Bluejays head coach Brady Archer. “It requires a number of moving parts to come together at the right time,” he said.

He’ll guide a team that has plenty of state meet experience, with juniors Teagan Archer and Adaline Kearns both familiar with the highest level, both in cross-country and track and field.

On the boys side, senior Braxton Dennison has been a steady fixture for the program over the past few years, and will look to lead the Jays this year.

“They lead through a demonstration of grit and integrity,” said Archer of his team leaders, “and they each bring something that helps the team work.”

Montezuma-Cortez looks to continue its growth under second-year head coach and former Mancos distance running standout Ro Paschal. The Panthers have seen increased turnout as well, which bodes well for a program hoping to make some noise in the 3A Region 2 meet this season.

“Our team has nearly doubled in size,” said Paschal of the Panthers program, “which includes some fired up young runners and seasoned veterans.”

Building a foundation, especially with the jump from the shorter middle school distance to the high school 5K races, will be important for success this season, according to the M-CHS head coach.

“Throughout the summer, many of our athletes put in solid bases that will set them up for a great season,” said Paschal.

After the season opening meet in Dolores, the Bluejays and Bears will head to Colorado Springs to compete in the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, which gives a preview of the state championship course. A trip to Monticello on Sept. 1 awaits on the schedule, as do meets in Pagosa Springs and Mancos in late September.

M-CHS will take on the Intermountain League meet on Oct. 7 in La Jara, before their regional meet on Oct. 18 in Colorado Springs.

Dolores and Mancos will face the regional field at Boggy Draw on Thursday, Oct. 19, with the hopes of qualification for the state championships the following weekend in Colorado Springs.

Mancos' Teagan Archer (97) passes Dolores' Maya Lowe during the high-school girls race at the Boggy Draw Bear Chase in 2021. Archer placed eighth, and Lowe 10th. Joel Priest/Special to The Journal