AURORA | Janine Taurchini’s love for running has swelled in the past year.
That love continues to yield rewards for the Eaglecrest senior, who now has an Aurora City Championship to show for it after qualifying for the Class 5A state cross country meet last season.
Taurchini got out early and was never really challenged on a familiar, but lengthier course at the Aurora Sports Park and well surpassed her best previous finish of 13th at the city meet with a 45-second victory. Smoky Hill had four runners in the top seven and won the team championship.
“It’s just my passion, running is really my favorite thing,” Taurchini said after she clocked a time of 21 minutes, 13 seconds on a course that measured longer than 3.1 miles. “It just makes me feel better about myself gives me a sense of accomplishment and purpose.”
Taurchini brought up the fact that she won against a depleted field missing three top contending teams in Cherokee Trail, Grandview and Regis Jesuit — which include at least five runners who finished in front of her at last season’s city meet — Taurchini got out early and found her zone, running alone for the last mile-plus.
Still, she accomplished her goal of winning and did so with the support of older sister and former Eaglecrest star Alicia Taurchini, a four-time 5A state qualifier whose best finish at the city meet came in 2013 when she took second to Grandview’s Erin Norton.
Taurchini became the Raptors’ first city champion since Charlsy Gibson in 2007 and joined two-time winner Sarah Waters (1997, 1998) and Tara Mendozza — part of the inaugural induction class of the school’s Athletics and Activities Hall of Fame — as Eaglecrest’s all-time champs.
“I feel good about it, but I also know that some girls weren’t there running and some teams weren’t there who were supposed to be top contenders,” Taurchini said. “I’m keeping that mind. I was just hoping to do my best, but I was going to try to win if I could.”
Smoky Hill junior Emmah Johannes, who was expected to challenge for the city crown, led the race for the first mile before she was overtaken by Taurchini, who opened up a sizeable lead as she approached the two-mile mark. Johannes exited the course with an apparent injury soon after, so senior Julie Eoff and the rest of the Buffs knew they had to pick up the slack.
They did that and then some, as Eoff finished second, Carlie Andrie took third and Sarah Power and Rhonda Patrom crossed the finish line sixth and seventh to lead Smoky Hill to a 21-point victory over Eaglecrest.
It gave the Buffs a repeat and marked the 16th time they’ve won the girls city title in the past 20 years.
“I was really excited for the girls to pack up,” Smoky Hill coach Brian Manley said. “When Emmah dropped out, we started telling our seventh runner that you’re going to be our sixth runner and if we tie, you’re going to score for us. It really got them excited to start packing up. I love their character.”
Manley was also proud of the performance given it was the first race of the season.
Taurchini’s fellow returning state qualifier, Jessica McQuaid, finished ninth to help the Raptors to second place in the team standings.
While holding the varsity girls out for Friday’s Steve Lohman Invitational, Cherokee Trail still managed to finish third as a team, with Ella Steckler and Caitlin McConnell crossing the finish line fourth and fifth, respectively, to earn first team all-city honors.
Vista PEAK came in eighth, led by Imelda Chavez, who finished just four seconds behind Patrom for the last all-city first team spot.
Overland also missed the meet, leaving just six teams with team scores.
Aurora Central and Gateway both participated, but lacked the five finishers needed to produce a score.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2015 AURORA CITY CHAMPIONSHIP CROSS COUNTRY RESULTS (GIRLS)
Aug. 27 at Aurora Sports Park
Girls team scores: 1. Smoky Hill (Julie Eoff, Carlie Andrie, Sarah Power, Rhonda Patrom, Kaycie Schubert, Ciera Munns) 29; 2. Eaglecrest (Janine Taurchini, Jessica McQuaid, Mariah Gordon, Madelyn Rivera, Rebecca McMillian, Emily Llamas, Emily Hunter) 48; 3. Cherokee Trail (Ella Steckler, Caitlin McConnell, Charlotte Thomas, Alexis Linhardt, Kyra Stevenson, Elyse Bartelemey, Savanah Nesvold) 51; 4. Vista PEAK (Imelda Chavez, Sarah Machacek, Lilla Chavez, Valeria Gonzalez, Madison Holt, Kamryn Scott) 124; 5. Hinkley (Kim Quinonez, Esmerelda Cabrera, Enbbbeba Taeme, Natalie Gomez, Yulissa Chavez, Raiza Reyna) 139; 6. Rangeview (Sydney Comet, Arielle Maes, Rebecca Bowers, Shynell Moore, Mariah Lee, Dreightyn Godfrey, Mihret Habtamu) 146
First Team All-City (top seven): 1. Janine Taurchini (Eaglecrest), 21 minutes, 13 seconds; 2. Julie Eoff (Smoky Hill), 21:58; 3. Carlie Andrie (Smoky Hill), 22:47; 4. Ella Steckler (Cherokee Trail), 23:02; 5. Caitlin McConnell (Cherokee Trail), 23:07; 6. Sarah Power (Smoky Hill), 23:12; 7. Rhonda Patrom (Smoky Hill), 23:17
Second Team All-City (places 8-14): 8. Imelda Chavez (Vista PEAK), 23:21; 9. Jessica McQuaid (Eaglecrest), 23:25; 10. Mariah Gordon (Eaglecrest), 23:43; 11. Kaycie Schubert (Smoky Hill), 23:49; 12. Charlotte Thomas (Cherokee Trail), 23:54; 13. Madelyn Rivera (Eaglecrest), 23:56; 14. Alexis Linhardt (Cherokee Trail), 23:57
For full individual results for all teams, click here.