For a runner as talented as Montrose High School’s Sean Graff, it seems somewhat surprising that he and his coach were overjoyed that he’ll make one last state appearance.
Graff, a three-time cross country state qualifier heading into this year, has been dealing with back issues dating back to last spring in which he missed most of the track season.
The pain flared up again in September, and it got to where he and head coach Brian Simpson thought Graff wasn’t going to compete at the Montrose-hosted regional meet on Friday at Confluence Park in Delta.
But the pain subsided and Graff got back to full strength, helping him qualify for his fourth-straight state tournament as he took fifth place, individually.
“It’s cool to be top 15 because this season hasn’t been exactly what I’ve been hoping for,” he said.
Added Simpson: “It was a great race for Sean considering he’s coming off some really serious back issues.”
His time helped the Indians also punch a ticket to the final meet of the year as they placed fourth overall.
Looking back at just a few weeks ago, Graff was more than happy to get this one last opportunity to go to state.
“There were a couple of times this season where it (his back) didn’t feel great,” he said. “It’s relieving for sure.”
The day couldn’t be any sweeter for Graff, but somehow it was.
Sean Graff also watched as his younger brother, Jonas, finish in the top 10 as the freshman took ninth place. Sean said this moment rings back the memories to when he and his older brother, Evan, ran cross country for two years, and each season the two qualified for state.
“It’s been cool to run with both of them,” Sean said. “It’s been fun.”
Additionally, for the boys, Nels Motley took 19th, Zack Oldroyd in 27th and Joshua Simpson in 36th. Zack Morris finished 38th followed by Isaac Cisneros in 46th, Ethan Birchem in 54th and Jadon Mangrum in 68th.
“They all ran very well and very strong,” Simpson said. “Once again, it just shows that the boys team wanted it.”
Runners could also go to that same final meet if they were one of the 15 fastest runners at regionals.
That was the case for Montrose’s Kelsey Rycenga, who took third place, and will make her fourth-consecutive trip to state.
“I’m so proud of Kelsey it was such a nice race today,” Simpson said.
But the Lady Indians didn’t qualify as a team as they finished in seventh place overall.
The next best runner for the girls team was Megan Motley, who qualified for state last year.
She just missed out going again as she took 28th. This season has been especially tough for her due to the fact she’s been battling a hip injury all year, Simpson said.
“It’s just been sad for Megan,” he said.
Additionally, Kassie Yeager took 48th place and Catherine Borner ended up in 70th.
Durango’s boys and girls team ended up winning both regional titles.
On the boys side, the other two units that beat out Montrose were Cheyenne Mountain in second place and Coronado in third.
Montrose also hosted Canon City, Coronado, Mesa Ridge, Widefield and the Pueblo schools: Centennial, Central, County, East, South and West.
This meet also featured the first time in over 10 years that Montrose hosted regionals.
Under Simpson’s tenure, the team held it at Riverbottom Park in 1992, and then again at Confluence Park in the mid-2000s.
Although regionals have been hosted in Delta since then, this was the most recent occurrence of it being run by Simpson’s team, the Montrose coach said. He’s been hard at work getting ready as he started preparation in February.
The Indians are now getting ready for state which begins on Saturday, Oct. 26, in Colorado Springs.