COLORADO SPRINGS - Megan Dillinger closed out her high school cross country career by leading Woodland Park to a 15th-place finish at the Class 4A state finals, held Oct. 27 at Norris-Penrose Events Center.
“I feel the course definitely ran faster, but I was giving it my all because this is my last race of high school,” said Dillinger, who finished 66th overall with a time of 21 minutes, 35.4 seconds. “I’m very happy. It was a good last race.”
The hilly course was an unforgiving venue, marked by rough terrain, creeks and boulders. Several runners tumbled and crossed the finish line with bloody knees.
“I’m really proud of everybody,” Dillinger said. “I’m happy.”
Dillinger normally ran second this season behind junior Savannah Ebhert. But Ebhert finished third (71st, 21:38.9) at the state meet behind super sophomore Lexi Harrison (68th, 31:36.8).
“I was in front, and the last 100 meters I saw Megan behind me and she was running really fast,” said Harrison, who was injured much of the season. “I’m like, `It’s her senior year. I might as well let her win.’”
Ebhert, a three-time state qualifier, said she ran a strong race, but found the hills challenging.
“I was with Megan a lot of the way, but the last hill she passed me and I just couldn’t keep up,” Ebhert said. “It was definitely a painful race, but I pushed through it really well. It felt good afterwards.”
Filling out the Panthers’ top five were junior Michaele McDonough (82nd, 21:49.40 and junior Anne Fisher (114th, 22:26.1). Two other Woodland Park runners ran, but did not figure in the scoring; Juniors Kelsey Seibel (129th, 22:42.1) and Brianna Austin (195th, 24:29.4).
“As a team we stuck together the first part and we gradually filled out,” Ebhert said. “But there were still four of us together in the last mile, so that was good.”
Woodland Park coach Ron Payton was pleased with the way his girls ran.
“Four girls were right together and the fifth one wasn’t too far back,” he said. “You want the pack to be further up in the race, but I was still pleased.”
Dillinger is one of the few seniors on the squad. She thinks the future is bright for the returning runners.
“Savannah will take good care of them, and Lexi and Anne and everybody,” she said. “It will be a good team next year.”
The Classical Academy won the race in relatively easy fashion, scoring 98 points. Two other Colorado Springs schools - Coronado (127) and Air Academy (131) ran second and third, respectively. Niwot’s Kelsey Cranny (18:41.3) won individual honors, crossing the finish line 1/100ths of a second ahead of Air Academy freshman Katie Rainsberger.
The highlight of the day on the girls side was turned in by Pine Creek senior Heather Bates. She won the 5A race with a blazing time of 18:16.5 - more than 43 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Emma Gee of Legacy.