Battle Mountain heads to Saturday’s cross country championships with high hopes

Milaina Almonte, the top runner on the No. 2-ranked Battle Mountain women’s cross country team, has the fourth-fastest time on the Colorado course in all of 4A this season.
Bobby Reyes / Milesplit

Battle Mountain will send its No. 2 girls and No. 4 boys and Eagle Valley will send its No. 6-ranked boys and a qualified individual girl to Colorado Springs for the 4A State cross country meet on Saturday at the Penrose Events Center. Check back for Saturday’s Vail Daily preview of Devils athletes.

Almonte, strong junior class, will lead No. 2 girls in battle against national powerhouse Niwot

The Battle Mountain Women’s Cross Country has placed second or better seven years in a row. During that span, the Huskies have only been beaten by the top 10 nationally ranked teams, with National No. 2 Niwot the guilty juggernaut tasked with preventing a potentially legendary black and gold dynasty.

“It’s hard for anyone in Colorado to continue to go up against Niwot, but I think over the past 10 years the girls have been one of the most consistent teams in the country and should be really applauded for this effort at the over time,” head coach Rob Parish aptly noted.

Region 1 individual runner-up Milaina Almonte has been a star this season, although her kind demeanor belies the senior’s icy courage on the course. “She has the fourth-best time in Colorado, and you would never know that by listening to her talk,” Parish said. “You would know that by watching his training.”

The coach calls Almonte “an all-time great” for Battle Mountain, with a time of just 5 kilometers eclipsed by state champions, DI athletes and former Olympians. She plans to run for Santa Clara next year, but Parish has also received an understandable flood of phone calls from her alma mater, Montana State University. “She might want a break in the snow,” Parish joked.

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A very tight junior class is lining up behind Almonte, led by state champion skimeister Lindsey Whitton, who has a knack for applying a pinch of Nordic toughness to hills and weather. “The harder it is, the better Lindsey does – hills and poor conditions, she really shines,” Parish noted. “So I think the state course will be a good course for her.”

Half-mile specialist Lindsey Kiehl has been trending up lately, giving the Huskies a dangerous top three. “Lindsey’s good run gives us an impressive top three,” Parish said. Joining his 4×400 meter relay teammate is Presley Smith, who has climbed into the rarefied air in terms of reach. “His progress in cross-country has really made this team fantastic,” said his coach.

A specialist in the 800-meter track, Lindsey Kiehl has been the Huskies’ third runner for most of the cross-country season this year.
Rex Keep / Courtesy Photo

The quality of the team’s finish, however, could lie in Kira Hower and/or Addison Beuche’s type of day. The two dived in less than 20 minutes, but the stars have yet to align on the same day. Rising freshman Ruthie Demino could also be a dark horse for fifth place.

“She worked her way into the top seven,” Parish said. “With such a strong and veteran group, it’s no small feat.”

“The whole team has grown a lot – this girl group has been through a lot,” he continued. “They’ve been great.”

Battle Mountain could have its first men’s individual state champion

Will Brunner (right) and Porter Middaugh (left) have the fastest 4A times ahead of Saturday’s cross country meet.
Bobby Reyes/Colorado Milesplit

Battle Mountain has never had an individual state champion on the boys’ side — the best finish, according to Parish, was fourth by Johnny Stevens in 2007 — a record in serious jeopardy on Saturday. The state’s fastest 4A time of 2022, 14:56.30, belongs to two Huskies.

Much has been written about the cross-country conquests of Porter Middaugh and Will Brunner, but interestingly the most staggering displays of fitness – according to Parish – have occurred in the mundane everyday.

“The races were fantastic – the wins and the times – but only the long races and the practice they did, when we’ve been doing that for 20 years now,” he said. “These are outliers in Malcom Gladwell’s sense.”

The “third amigo” of last year’s stud sophomore class, Jorge Sinaloa, just finished 16:03, 11th place regionally last week. Parish considers all three runners “players” and thinks Sinaloa, with continuous off-season mileage, has the talent to be with its front two. “That’s the next step for him,” Parish said. “He has worked very hard this year.

After losing four of the seven members of last year’s team — including area champion Sullivan Middaugh — the Huskies’ fate has always hinged on newcomers buying into the plan and building momentum. Junior John McAbee answered the call, jumping all 17 as he went from a non-college guy at 6:03 p.m. in 2021 to 4:53 p.m. last week, good for 22nd overall in the region.

“John is an athlete who really bought into that, ‘I’m going to work hard, I’m going to rack up the miles over the summer,'” Parish said. “He makes conscious decisions every time in practices and long races, instead of settling down, to really try to advance his fitness. And it shows.” Middaugh’s spring surge, Brunner’s epic summer transformation, coupled with Sinaloa’s talent and McAbee’s current trajectory have Parish salivating over the talented junior class that will return in 2023.

“It all depends on the kind of work they put into it, but the sky’s the limit with them.”

Another substitute-turned-scorer is senior captain Jake Lindall. While fellow countryman Captain Brunner leads from the front of the pack, Lindall provides the voice of reason and a swagger to fight for the common man. “He’s made huge progress,” Parish said of his fifth goalscorer. In sixth and seventh place will be region hero Bergen Drummet and junior Christian Alvarez.

“They’ve really embraced this pursuit and the concept of hard work equals results,” Parish said of his deep runners before summing up his entire team.

“They bought into the hunt and felt a sense of pride representing Battle Mountain – and they truly exceeded expectations.”


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