What a run! Soroco’s Chloe Veilleux a state champ | SteamboatToday.com

What a run! Soroco’s Chloe Veilleux a state champ

— Losing didn't enter the mind of Soroco High School cross country runner Chloe Veilleux, but it did surface in nearly everyone else's.

Veilleux, a sophomore, was 100 meters behind the leader two-thirds of the way through Saturday's 5-kilometer Class 2A state championship race at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs.

Her hopes of winning the title, a first for her school, were dimming by the moment, and her biggest fans knew it.

"I thought, 'Oh gosh. The heat got to her. She's going to be bummed out,’" Soroco coach Callie Anderson said.

Anderson was as shocked as anyone else when it was Veilleux, not the leader for a step of the race's first 4.8K, who came sprinting around the final corner and into the finish-line arena first. 
She took advantage of her up-the-mountain training and a tough late-race hill to surge past Buena Vista senior Annie Hughes in the final stretch. Veilleux flew through the arena, the announcer booming "Soroco!" as she crossed the finish line. In that, she became Soroco's first cross country state champion.

"It's just so awesome, and I trained so hard for it," Veilleux said. "It finally happened, and I'm just excited."

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Kelley finishes fourth

Veilleux led the way in a precedent-breaking day for the Rams' cross country team.

Ben Kelley finished fourth on the boys side, a big step up from his eighth-place finish a year ago. Kourtney Bruner, meanwhile, was 56th in the girls race.

Despite his improvement, Kelley came away disappointed. He'd been one of the favorites to win in 2A all season, thanks to a blistering personal best time he laid down in the season's first meet.

He wasn't ever able to match that, however. His health began to fail him through the middle of the season, and he uncharacteristically collapsed after two regular season races. He eventually narrowed the problem down to an iron deficiency, but that diagnosis came only two weeks before state. He said he ate as much steak and clams as possible to try to build his body back up, but Saturday, it wasn't quite there yet.

"I was getting weaker and weaker every step," he said. "It's just so hard to come into the season so strong, set a PR in your first race and never capitalize on that."

He raced in third through much of the race, then dropped to fourth late. He actually lost two more spots climbing the same hill Veilleux used, but charged to the finish line and earned them back. He crossed in 17:00.17, a whole minute slower than his time in the season-opening race.

"I've just been working so hard. Just to come in fourth like that, it's good. I still got on the podium. But I was going for the win," he said. "I've worked harder than I ever have for this, and to see my times go down and down, it's hard."

Bruner also came away a little disappointed in her finish, though she was quick to realize that feeling was relative. A freshman new to distance running three months ago, she wondered how she'd ever run as far as her coach was demanding.

She went on to qualify for state and ran a tough race there Saturday.

"I didn’t think I'd do very well," Bruner said, reflecting on the start to her season. "Now, I feel pretty good. I'm a little disappointed, but not very much. I did pretty well."

A special surge

It was Veilleux's day.

She hung back early in the race, content as long as she could keep her main foes in sight. But the gap grew and grew, making her coach wonder if this season would be an opportunity missed.

That though never struck Veilleux. She was fifth early and said her legs felt heavy, but she was feeling strong late, picking off runners and setting up her final move on a hill that led to the finish line.

"It never came in my head that I was too far back," she said. "I was assuming that last hill would allow me to close the gap. We just do so many hills where we live.

“It did, and once I got up that feeling good, I was able to pass her at the top and finish strong."

She finished in 19:47.20. Hughes was in at 19:56.14.

Veilleux's win was the first for the young Soroco program, now just three years old. In those three years, the Rams have tallied four all-state finishes and, as of Saturday afternoon, one state champion.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

State cross country results

2A Girls

1 Chloe Veilleux, Soroco, 19:47.20

2 Annie Hughes, Buena Vista, 19:56.14

3 Whitney White, Buena Vista, 20:07.25

56 Kourtney Bruner, Soroco, 23:56.00

2A Boys

1 Jerald Taylor, Custer County, 16:06.28

2 Cody Danley, Rocky Ford, 16:38.56

3 Patrick Scoggins, Rangley, 16:57.93

4 Ben Kelley, Soroco, 17:00.17