Cole Paczosa of Telluride runs with a pair of Grand Junction Tigers at the prep meet Friday. The freshman finished third, first among Class 2A competitors. (Photo by Dale Strode/Telluride Daily Planet)

The Telluride High School cross country team is in the midst of a youth movement as the fall season kicks off.

The Miners, who competed in the annual Grand Junction Tiger Invitational Friday, showcased an all-underclass roster for 2019 — no seniors.

But the youthful Telluride runners are out to reinforce the tradition of Miners advancing to the State Cross Country Championships at the end of the season.

For a decade and counting, Telluride cross country runners have not only qualified for state but also produced podium finishes there.

A freshman and a sophomore set the pace for Telluride last week at Grand Junction’s expansive Canyon View Park. Freshman Cole Pacosza finished third overall in the boys race that featured 61 competitors. He ran the flat, 5-kilometer parkland course in 19 minutes, 16.86 seconds. Sophomore Ruby Tanguay led the Miners in the girls race, finishing sixth with a time 25 minutes, 21.63 seconds. Tanguay, who qualified for the Class 2A state championships last year as a freshman, finished behind only Class 5A runners in Grand Junction.

Telluride teammate Chloe Hehir, a sophomore, finished 13th in Grand Junction with a time of 26 minutes, 5.44 seconds. Fellow freshman Ava Osborne was 29th in 31 minutes, 7.22 seconds.

Telluride runners Delaney Spires, Sabrina Brimhall and Katija Kramer finished in a group — 32nd, 33rd and 34th, respectively.

For the boys, Telluride freshman Ty Segerstrom finished 31st. Fellow freshman T.C. Wagner was 37th for the Miners.

“It’s a building year for us,” Telluride head coach Erin Murray said. “Of our 12 kids out, we have nine freshmen.”

She said the Miners knew the numbers would change this year with the graduation of a large senior class last year.

“But it’s a really strong freshman group,” Murray said. “I can’t wait to see what they can do in four years together.”

She said the Telluride coaches are trying to teach the young runners about competition at the high school level.

“Luckily, a lot of them ran in middle school,” Murray said. “We’re really building our middle school program.”

The runners picked up some race experience in middle school, she said.

“We’re teaching them the next level,” Murray said. “This is a really fun group.”

Host Grand Junction High School won the girls and boys team titles at the Tiger Invitational.

Other schools competing included Telluride, Fruita Monument, Grand Junction Central, Ouray and North Sevier of Salina, Utah.

Reese Fledderjohn, a Grand Junction senior, won the boys race in 18 minutes, 35.27 seconds. Teammate Daniel Duffy, a sophomore, was second in 19, minutes, 2.37 seconds.

Junior Mandy Moran led a 1-2-3-4 finish for Grand Junction High School in the girls event, as she won with a time of 21 minutes, 13.49 seconds.

Sophomore Nina English of the Tigers was second in 22 minutes, 43.88 seconds.

Murray said it’s valuable for the Miners to compete against bigger schools at a meet like the Tiger Invitational, which was delayed 45 minutes because of lightning. Still, the temperature was 95 degrees when the girls race started in the afternoon.

The temperature was nearly 10 degrees cooler when the boys race started 45 minutes later. Light rain started to fall as the race concluded under dark skies.

For Murray and the Miners, the meet was another chance to learn.

“We really still working on pace,” Murray said. “We ran at Boggy Draw (near Dolores) last week. That was a new race and that was great. This course is more similar to a lot of our meets; it’s a nice, flat, fun, fast course.”

The Telluride cross country team will compete next at the Gunnison Invitational on Friday, Sept. 14.

The Miners will race at Ridgway State Park Sept. 20.

They’ll also run several times in Delta this season, including a race at Sweitzer Lake State Park Sept. 27.

Telluride also will run on the Confluence Park course in Delta, site of an invitational Oct. 4 and the regional championships Oct. 19.

The State Cross Country Championships will be Oct. 26 at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs.