Evan Appel wasn’t sure if he was going to run on Sept. 26 or not.
The defending Class 5A cross-country state champion and senior at Dakota Ridge High School hadn’t been feeling all that great recently, and shutting things down for the afternoon would’ve been an easy thing to do.
But, after taking part in the pre-race warmup, Appel decided to go ahead and go through with the race.
Not surprisingly, Appel’s decision paid off wisely for himself and the Eagles as he cruised to victory at the Dave Sanders Memorial Cross-Country Invitational, crossing the finish line in 15 minutes, 30 seconds at Robert F. Clement Park.
“Once I got out on the course, I started to feel better,” said Appel, who added he was under the weather at the Liberty Bell, which was held two weeks ago. “I think the worst of the cold is behind me, and I’m really looking forward to the final month of the season.”
Appel’s younger brother, Austin, also ran a strong race on Sept. 26, finishing seventh in 16:36. Danny Carney finished 11th (17:03) and Jimmy Mohrbacher placed 15th as the Eagles handily won the team title, scoring 74 points.
“We’re starting to get stronger,” Evan Appel said. “I think we’re going to be real strong when we get to state.”
Columbine’s R.J. Gaither was the top finisher for the Rebels, placing 26th in a time of 17:58. Andrew Ormsby paced Chatfield, taking 33rd overall with a time of 18:11.
Vanatta guides Eagles
In their attempt to defend their state title, the Dakota Ridge girls took an important step in that direction when they won the Dave Sanders Memorial Cross-Country Invitational team title on Sept. 26.
Kaitie Vanatta placed first in the meet with a time of 18:47 and a mile pace of 5:57.
“I thought it went really well, I just wanted to do the best I could and the team did really well,” Vanatta said.
She also had a lot of praise for her team in victory.
“We have a lot of great girls that are really passionate. We know what we have to do and when we have to do it,” she said.
The Dakota Ridge girls placed first with 79 points. They had two runners place in the top 5, Vanatta and Paige Lillo, who placed fourth. Vicky VanAlstine-Tauer finished 12th while Ashley Wamboldt 17th and Brooke Orcutt finished 41st.
The Chatfield Chargers did fare quite as well as they placed 11th with 259 points. Rachel Lenz was the team’s second finisher in 42nd place, not bad, considering she’s just a freshman.
“It was pretty good,” Lenz said calmly. “I didn’t really have a strategy,” she added quietly.
The Chargers were led by Piper Williams in 27th place with a time of 20:58, followed by Lenz and then Chelsea O’Brien in 50th, Samantha Acterberg in 63rd and Logan Payne in 76th.
Columbine placed right behind the Chargers in 12th place with 301 points. Nikki Funkhauser was the team’s bright spot finishing in 14th place with a time of 20:31.
“I really tried to pick it up after the first mile and up the hill,” she said.
Freelance reporter Joe Vaccarelli contributed to this report.