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The Telluride girls cross country team breaks from the starting line at the Tiger Invitational at Grand Junction’s Canyon View Park. (Photo by Dale Strode/The Watch)

High school rivalries come in all shapes, colors and sizes.

Rivalry circumstances, universal in many cases, can be quite unique in others — like the interwoven community connections linking Telluride and Ridgway high schools.

Though significantly different in enrollment, the two schools are as familiar to each other as they are to Mount Sneffels.

The students know each other like their parents know every curve on Highway 62.

Several Ridgway High School students are former Telluride students. Several Telluride students formerly attended Ridgway. They are far from divided in spite of Dallas Divide.

Throw in years of competing on youth sports teams — playing against and alongside each other. Add colorful elements of school spirit and community bragging rights and you have Telluride versus Ridgway.

THE MINER VERSUS

THE DEMONS

The fall rivalry focuses directly on boys soccer with both Ridgway and Telluride ranked in the top 5 in the statewide Class 2A soccer rankings this season.

Both teams are off to hot starts as they play for return trips to the state soccer tournament.

“This year, we have more weapons. We have more offensive creativity,” said Ridgway head coach Jon Kornbluh. “Last year, we were hyper-dependent on Robert Deserra’s goals. This year, with more weapons, we’re tougher to defend.”

He said as teams double- and triple-team Deserra, the Demons have more offensive options.

The Ridgway boys opened the new season with three quick wins and then a scintillating 1-1 overtime tie at Crested Butte, the reigning Class 2A state soccer champion.

“It was a good result. I was pleased,” Kornbluh said of the match at Crested Butte, played in drizzling rain and muddy conditions. “The boys are looking good. We’ve set our goals high this year.”

The Ridgway boys stormed into the state playoffs last year, beating Rye 4-0 in the first round, before falling to Fountain Valley 2-0 in the state quarterfinals.

Their mission this season is to get back into playoffs for a deeper run.

“This year, we’re able to do more tactical development than we did in the past,” Kornbluh said.

In addition to a barrage of early goals from Deserra, the Demons also have collected goals and assists from Jonah Kornbluh, Cooper Ahern, Cory Thomsen, Collin Kendall, Andrew Winklemann and Kaden Forrest.

Forrest is the returning starter at goalkeeper for Ridgway.

“He’s playing really well,” coach Kornbluh said. “He had a great game (in goal) at Crested Butte.”

Demons’ backup keeper Jake Copp is a crossover athlete, familiar in Telluride’s freestyle skiing world as a top aerial skier.

“He’s so athletic; he’s comfortable in the air,” Kornbluh said. “We also have two starting freshmen; a healthy mix of seniors and younger players.”

He said the Demons are younger on defense this year, too.

“That’s where we have the most work to do,” said the Ridgway head coach, who has worked with the current Demons ever since they were 9 years old.

He added that the Ridgway boys have an ambitious schedule that should help their development.

Included are games against established Class 3A programs like Aspen and Coal Ridge (New Castle).

The Demons answered the call of the road last weekend with a 5-3 victory under the lights at Aspen High School.

Beserra scored three goals and Linder scored two as the Ridgway boys improved to 4-0-1.

The Demons’ schedule also features several early road trips, followed by seven consecutive home matches in Ridgway.

And in a unique twist to the regional rivalry with Telluride, the two soccer teams will play each other twice in the last two weeks of the season.

The Demons and Miners will play Oct. 15 in Ridgway.

On Oct. 23, the teams will clash in the regular season finale at Telluride.

TELLURIDE SOCCER

The Miners, off to an equally hot start, also are taking aim at a deep playoff run in 2019.

The Telluride boys advanced all the way to the state championship match for the first time in school history.

After the title match loss to Crested Butte (another resort rival), the Miners of coach Ramon Rodriquez are back with a renewed commitment.

“A lot of these kids were part of last year,” Rodriguez said. “They are excited to be back … they didn’t like the way it ended last year.”

He said the playoff experience is invaluable.

“After last season, I think they realize what the payoff can be,” Rodriquez said. “The mentality is that they are angry about that championship game. They want to take that loss out on everyone else.”

Early results included a 2-0 win at Alamosa and a 10-0 victory over Bayfield.

“We didn’t know for sure how the scoring would go,” Rodriguez said. The team had leading scorer Matheau Richard back for his senior season. “We want to get other guys to score to help take the pressure off Matheau.”

The Miners responded with 10 goals against Bayfield, scored by six different players. Richard led the way with three goals.

Senior Jonah Jodlowski and junior Landon Kusuno scored two goals each.

Miles Welch, Bryce Lambert and Henry Martin also scored for the Miners.

Rodriguez said Tate Young and South Livermore have stepped into big roles for the Miners as well.

Livermore scored a goal in Telluride’s 2-0 win over Alamosa; Richard scored the other goal.

Rodriguez said the defense again is the anchor of the Telluride boys soccer team.

“The defense took us into that late-season run last year,” Rodriguez said, pointing to key playoff wins over Dawson School and Fountain Valley — two traditional powerhouses. “We have Jonah (Jodlowski) back on defense; he’s an animal out there.”

Johnny Wilcox also returns after starting every game for the Miners last year.

With Beck Lystad and Peter Spencer, the Telluride coach said the Miners have depth on defense.

A number of others are contributing, said Rodriguez, who is in his third season as the Telluride head coach.

Veteran Tommy Wells returns in goal for the Miners.

“He’s back again for his senior year. He’s had the two shutouts (to open the season),” Rodriguez said, adding that the defense has been stellar in front of Wells.

“He had a helluva championship game against Crested Butte last year with all those saves,” Rodriguez said. “He’s back and he’s pushing even harder.”

He said the entire community is excited about the new season.

Large home crowds are anticipated, especially with the rivalry matchups against Crested Butte and Ridgway.

The Miners dropped a tight 3-1 decision to Crested Butte last weekend with Jodlowski scoring Telluride’s lone goal.

VOLLEYBALL

Telluride, early in the season, is controlling the volleyball rivalry with Ridgway.

The Miners, with a varsity roster including freshmen, sophomores, juniors and one senior, surged to 9-2 to start the schedule.

Included among the wins was a 3-0 victory in Ridgway’s new high school and a tense 3-2 win at Ignacio last weekend.

“They (Miners) are extremely focused, extremely hard-working and extremely passionate — they really want (to win),” Telluride head coach Rhea de Pagter said.“We have one senior on the varsity squad. We do have a very talented junior class. It’s really nice to have talented freshmen and sophomores to fill things out.”

She said the team has concentrated on aggressive serving and effective passing.

Both were on display in Ridgway, as the Miners shut down the Demons 3-0 (25-23, 25-10, 25-18).

Effective jump serving by sophomore Emery Berry pulled Telluride back from a deficit in the opening set.

Senior Danika Petit, the team leader in kills, was joined by juniors Bella Galbo and Morgan Watkinson, sophomores Berry and Ally Tealdi, and freshman Emma Righetti in the starting lineup.

The Miners’ rotation this year has included juniors Kyra Levan, Brooke Shifrin, Kendall Ballode and Melena Krownapple.

“They are all really stepping up this year,” de Pagter said, adding that the mix of youth and experience is also valuable in building the future of the program.

Ridgway pressed the Miners behind Geri June Hall, Michaela Messer, Shelby Sisler, Jenna Brown, Emily Medina and Cass Rickers.

Sophomores Isabella Janda and Sara Messer also are on the Ridgway varsity this year. The Demons started the season 1-7 on the volleyball court.

The Telluride girls scored early victories over larger schools like Moffat County, Rangely, Hotchkiss and Roaring Fork.

The 3-2 win at Ignacio was provided by Telluride’s 15-11 win in the fifth and final set.

Their only San Juan Basin League loss came at highly regarded Dolores. The Bears, behind 6-foot-2 standout Jordan Elder, edged the Miners 3-1 (25-13, 25-17, 18-25, 25-23).

The Telluride volleyball team will return to action this week with matches at Ouray on Thursday and at home against DeBeque on Saturday.

The Miners will host Ridgway on Tuesday.

The final match of the regular season for Telluride will be a showdown against Dolores in Telluride on Oct. 26.

TELLURIDE CROSS COUNTRY

The Telluride High School cross country team has a new look this year — a younger one.

The Miners, who competed in the annual Grand Junction Tiger Invitational two weeks ago, feature an all-underclass roster for 2019.

But the young runners have the same goal as previous Telluride teams: advance to the state cross country championships.

For more than a decade, Telluride high school runners have not only qualified for states, but also produced podium finishes.

A freshman and a sophomore set the pace for the Miners at the Grand Junction race at expansive Canyon View Park.

Telluride freshman Cole Pacosza placed third overall in the boys race on the flat 5-kilometer course in 19 minutes, 16.86 seconds. He was the highest placing Class 2A runner.

Telluride sophomore Ruby Tanguay finishing sixth in 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 in 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 — 32th, 33th and 34th, respectively.

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

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

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.

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.

“We’re really still working on pace,” Murray said.

The Miners are scheduled to run several times in Delta this season, including a race at Sweitzer Lake State Park on Friday.

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.

TELLURIDE GOLF

The Telluride High School golf team also is in the midst of a youth movement after losing a majority of the team to graduation.

“We lost six seniors last year,” said Telluride head coach Jeff Arenson. “So I’m trying to recruit. I’ve got six freshmen out, and they’re excited about the game.

“I’m doing more teaching this year, but they are picking it up quick. They want to get better.”

He said it’s rewarding to watch young golfers acquire an appetite for golf.

“They are enjoying the game, loving the game,” Arenson said. “They’re asking their parents to play on weekends. Now, it’s a matter of cultivating that.”