FORT COLLINS — It turns out the only footsteps Evan Appel heard were his own as he sprinted down the home stretch Oct. 25.
The Dakota Ridge senior was driven by a wealth of emotions, from the fear of being caught to the pressure of repeating as Class 5A state champions and the need to give the Eagles a great finish to a frustrating day.
He needed just 15 minutes, 20.24 seconds to do it all.
Appel clinched his second consecutive state championship by a comfortable 10-second margin at Fossil Ridge High School in a race he dictated from the beginning.
“The only thing that made it different for me is getting ready to defend that title,” Appel said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself before these races and I know that if I wasn’t able to win it today I’d be sulking for the three weeks leading up to the Foot Locker. Now I get three weeks to be on top of the world.”
Appel extended his arms as he crossed the finish line before shooting a quick glimpse behind him just to see how close it had been.
“I was just running out of fear,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone to catch me.”
The closest competitor was Walter Schafer of Cherry Creek. Schafer finished with a time of 15:30.09 to help guide the Bruins to the boys team title.
Evan and sophomore brother Austin Appel, who placed 14th with a time of 16:28.39, ensured the Eagles the second-best 1-2 finish in 5A. Freshman Danny Carney placed 26th with a time of 16:45.19, Jimmy Mohrbacher was 68th with a time of 17:24.84, and senior Harrison Smith was 93rd with a time of 17:42.99.
With those results the Eagles scored 217 points and placed fourth in the team event.
Dakota Ridge’s girls squad had things go south before the race even began. The defending champions lost senior Kaitie Vanatta to an injury and had senior Natosha Rogers finish in obvious pain.
Rogers places seventh with a time of 17:54.93 as the Eagles placed fifth with a score of 262.
“Today was definitely not the day for Dakota Ridge,” said Evan Appel, who added that knowing the troubles the girls faced prior to his race only “motivates you to kind of do it in their honor.”
Senior Paige Lillo nearly reached her goal as she placed 12th with a time of 19:05.38.
“I was going to start my mile easy and then push up like I did,” Lillo said. “I wanted top-10 but I think I got like (12th) at the very end. I’m still a little (upset) about that.”
Sophomore Nicole Ceja placed 77th for the Eagles with a time of 20:30.53, junior Vickey Vanalstine-Tauer was 81st with a time of 20:32.53, and freshman Ashley Wamboldt was 85th with a time of 20:38.33.
Both Appel and Lillo said they did not like the footing on the new course, which made its debut after years of behind held on the south side of Colorado Springs.
“It’s really bumping,” Lillo said. “It’s like horrible.”
Columbine represented in the boys race with R.J. Gaither, who placed 36th with a time of 16:55.99.
For the girls, the Rebels were led by Nikki Funkhauser, who ran a 20:09.63.
The Chatfield girls were represented by Piper Williams, who ran a 20:16.68 to place 66th.
CHSAA State Cross-Country Championships
Class 5A Boys: 4. Dakota Ridge, 217. Individual results: 1. Evan Appel, Sr., 15:20.24; 14. Austin Appel, So., 16:28.39; 26. Danny Carney, Fr., 16:45.19; 70. Jimmy Mohrbacher, Jr., 17:24.84; 106. Harrison Smith, Sr., 17:42.99; 154. Will Marino, Jr., 18:33.44; 186. Blake Scott, Sr., 20:46.59.
Columbine: 36. R.J. Gaither, 16:55.99.
Class 5A Girls: 5. Dakota Ridge, 262. Individual results: 7. Natosha Rogers, Sr., 18:54.93; 12. Paige Lillo, Sr., 19:05.38; 77. Nicole Ceja, So., 20:30.53; 81. Vickey Vanalstine-Tauer, Jr., 20:32.53; 85. Ashley Wamboldt, Fr., 20:38.33; 149. Kaitie Vanatta, Sr., 21:38.33; 169. Brooke Orcutt, So., 22:20.33.