Regional meets recently determined who was qualified to participate in Saturday’s Colorado High School State Cross Country Meet at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs.
Demonstrating they truly belonged, however, was up to the athletes themselves, as they took the starting line on a brisk sunny morning against the most accomplished high school distance runners the state of Colorado has to offer.
Even amongst elite company, however, Platte Canyon High School runners Tim Long and Emma Dikken looked right at home.
Long finished eighth among Class 2A boys with a time of 17:14.90, while Dikken garnered a ninth-place finish among the girls at 20:40.5.
The PCHS girl’s squad finished fifth overall as a team, while the boys’ team placed 13th.
On the girls’ side, the Huskies’ strong team finish was bolstered by Eleigha Hamari’s effort of 22:52.7, good for 43rd, teammate Hannah Grover’s 22:54.7, good for 44th, and Sydney Wagner’s effort of 26:20.6, placing her at 105th.
The girls finished second among all Class 2A teams in 2018, and they are perennial contenders at the regional and state levels.
Despite a trying season in which she was consistently plagued by nagging ankle injuries, Dikken ran with the lead group for much of the race and finished with a strong kick as she entered the arena and dashed to the finish.
In 2018, as a sophomore, Dikken took sixth place at the state meet. She is also an accomplished sprinter, and is a staple for the PCHS track team each spring in 100-, 200 - and 400-meter individual and relay events.
Dikken finished fifth at the regional meet.
“It was a rough season with ankle injuries that I kept aggravating, but overall I am pretty happy with the way things went,” Dikken said. “Both ankles were wrapped today, and I wasn’t in much pain. Next year I will be more careful, and can hopefully stay healthy throughout the season.”
The boys’ squad, anchored by Long, also benefitted from a 72nd-place finish by Jace Valentine at 19:19.2, a 87th-place finish by Tucker Sussenbach at 19:54.1, a 106th-place finish by Joseph Melero at 21:01.8, and Gavin Geiger, a 116th-place finish by Christopher Long at 21:43.4 and a 120th-place finish by Gavin Geiger at 22:15.9.
Worth noting is the fact that Tim Long is the only senior on the team. Christopher Long and Melero are both juniors, and teammates Sussenbach, Geiger and Valentine are all sophomores.
Tim Long, meanwhile, could not have been happier with his eighth-place finish after placing 41st at the State Meet in 2018.
“I really didn’t change my training much,” Long said. “I just continued doing what my coaches asked, and my times have continued to drop.”
When asked about race strategy, Long said he kept things simple and had a smooth, error-free race.
“I tried pacing myself early in the race, and then I just went for it toward the end,” Long said. “I kept hearing other coaches telling their runners their times and where they were, so I had a pretty good idea about where I stood the whole way.”
Long said he planned to continue his running career in college, and that he hoped his strong finish at the state would help to earn some recognition.
“I would like to keep running, and I have talked to a couple of colleges,” Long said. “Now I hope I can talk to them more after today’s race.”
Long placed third at the regional meet.