COLORADO SPRINGS | Brie Oakley called her runner-up finish in last season’s Class 5A girls state cross country meet “insane.”
Her performance Oct. 29 at the Norris Penrose Equestrian Center qualified as certifiably nuts.
Just a little over a year into competitive running, the Grandview senior not only won a monster match-up with three-time defending state champion Lauren Gregory of Fort Collins, but broke the course record by over a minute on a blazing hot October day that left many competitors collapsed on the ground.
“It was definitely hotter than last year and I was feeling it in the last mile, but I just thought ‘I only have a minute left to run and I need to give it my all,’” Oakley said.
“I just wanted it so bad.”
Oakley admitted the hype surrounding her battle with Gregory — who beat her at last year’s state meet — got to be a bit much. The recent University of California-Berkeley commit was glad once the race started and the two contenders got well out in front of the field after a mile.
Gregory tried to make a move on a downhill stretch of the course about midway through the race, but Oakley matched her and Gregory — who later said that Oakley “took it to her” — fell down.
Oakley was concerned with the well-being of her competitor, but had to keep pushing on.
With a 50-second edge after two miles, Oakley pushed to the finish line in 17 minutes, 7.83 seconds, stunning spectators with a time that set the course record by more than a full minute. Gregory recovered and finished second in 18:32.72.
“Lauren came up beside me and started to make her move, but then she went behind me and I think she fell down,” Oakley recalled. “She still finished second, so I was really happy about that. I was definitely worried.”
Grandview coach Allyson Robbins was thrilled to have the program’s first state champion after she’d seen Erin Norton come close with a third-place finish in 2013 and Oakley with her runner-up result last season.
“I’m so proud of Brie — what an accomplishment,” said Robbins, who was also thrilled with the sixth-place finish of junior Caroline Robbins (no relation) as the Wolves finished a program-best fourth as a team.
Oakley became the first girls cross country state champion from an Aurora school since 2005, when Smoky Hill’s Keara Sammons won the title.
Elevated by Oakley’s presence all season long, Caroline Robbins surged from 47th place in 2015 (and 44th as a freshman in 2015) all the way to sixth place, joining her teammate on the medal podium with all-state (top-seven) honors.
Robbins started out running with some of the Cherry Creek girls she knew well, but worked her way forward at the right time, easily accomplishing her goal of a top-10 finish. She nearly got fifth, but Mountain Vista’s Jenna Fitzsimmons beat her across the line by just .04 of a second.
“The last mile I was definitely dying, but I just didn’t want the season to end worse than I know I could do,” said a beaming Robbins, who ran more than a minute faster than she had in 2015.
“I tried to push myself as hard as I could to the finish,” she added.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Mercer and junior Peyton Dailey and Erin Ellington rounded out the scoring five for Grandview, which posted a program-best fourth place finish to significantly improve on last season’s ninth-place finish.
Caroline Robbins said she and the rest of the team were constantly pushed to greater heights by Oakley.
“Brie is insane, I’m so lucky to be on the same team with her,” Robbins said. “She is one of the sweetest girls I’ve ever met and she definitely wants me and everybody on the team to be a better runner.”
Dailey finished 24th at state as a freshman in 2014, but was unable to run last season due to injury. She came in 65th in her return.
Regis Jesuit freshman Isalina Colsman made a strong state debut with a 17th-place result and the Raiders placed 13th as a team, with four-time state qualifier Julia Vitella next in 66th.
Sophomore Caitlin McConnell improved from 94th in 2015 to 37th to pace Cherokee Trail to 15th. Senior Jordan Herrera, a four-time state participant, placed 44th.
Running individually, Smoky Hill sophomore Amelia Johannes gained 10 spots from her previous performance as she crossed the finish line in 42nd place, a half-second behind Mercer.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2016 CLASS 5A STATE CROSS COUNTRY (GIRLS)
Team scores: 1. Broomfield 55 points; 2. Mountain Vista 62; 3. Monarch 153; 4. GRANDVIEW 167; 5. Arvada West 196; 6. Cherry Creek 225; 7. Coronado 256; 8. Fossil Ridge 259; 9. Rock Canyon 265; 10. Boulder 268; 11. Fairview 281; 12. Arapahoe 283; 13. REGIS JESUIT 326; 14. Rampart 367; 15. CHEROKEE TRAIL 371; 16. Fort Collins 376; 17. Dakota Ridge 379; 18. ThunderRidge 421; 19. Rocky Mountain 442; 20. Chatfield 465
Top 10 individuals: 1. BRIE OAKLEY (GRANDVIEW), 17 minutes, 7.83 seconds; 2. Lauren Gregory (Fort Collins), 18:32.72; 3. Ivy Gonzales (Boromfield), 18:55.93; 4. Madison Mooney (Broomfield), 19:05.04; 5. Jenna Fitzsimmons (Mountain Vista), 19:06.21; 6. CAROLINE ROBBINS (GRANDVIEW), 19:06.25; 7. Brynn Siles (Legacy), 19:08.78; 8. Caroline Eck (Mountain Vista), 19:10.08; 9. Allison Mann (Liberty), 19:11.40; 10. Devon Peterson (Cherry Creek), 19:16.22
Other Aurora individuals: 17. Isalina Colsman (Regis Jesuit), 19:29.18; 37. Caitlin McConnell (Cherokee Trail), 20:08.86; 41. Kaitlyn Mercer (Grandview), 20:17.39; 42. Amelia Johannes (Smoky Hill), 20:17.90; 53. Jordan Herrera (Cherokee Trail), 20:28.38; 65. Peyton Dailey (Grandview), 20:44.56; 79. Julia Vitella (Regis Jesuit), 21:02.43; 81. Kelly Grubaugh (Regis Jesuit), 21:04.86; 87. Erin Ellington (Grandview), 21:13.47; 88. Elizabeth Somer (Regis Jesuit), 21:15.82; 98. Soonhee Han (Cherokee Trail), 21:23.37; 112. Anna Swanson (Grandview), 21:46.19; 114. Liz Thomas (Cherokee Trail), 21:49.64; 120. Catie Vitella (Regis Jesuit), 21:56.31; 131. Clare Davidson (Regis Jesuit), 22:13.65; 135. Alexis Linhardt (Cherokee Trail), 22.23.23; 138. Charlotte Thomas (Cherokee Trail), 22:34.98; 140. Kyra Stevenson (Cherokee Trail), 22:38.05; 148. Denika Hallin (Grandview), 23:04.23