The nerves had set in by the time Sydney Thorvaldson took her place behind the orange starting line.
She’s gotten nervous before every race but this was different. It was her first varsity race.
Then she remembered all the times her mother would take her running. Her mind drifted back to those memories of feet hitting the ground around Rawlins.
The starting gun sounded and she took off.
The Rawlins freshman won the annual season-opening Beartrap Invite at Casper Mountain on Friday afternoon in her first varsity race, finishing with a time of 18 minutes, 18.37 seconds. Second place Abigail Whitman of Laramie finished in 20:06.00.
“I felt really good,” Thorvaldson said. “I really just wanted to see what my base time was so I could see if I could improve across the season.”
After the initial jostling for position she seized the lead and kept it. As the runners wound through the trees, Thorvaldson was still running hard. By the time she reached the clearing and made it to the road, she was pulling away.
She made the uphill climb look easy and handled the change in terrain without hesitation or falter.
While some teams don’t participate in the Beartrap Invite because of the altitude and the heat that comes with mid-August in Wyoming, the Rawlins freshman glided throughout the course’s 5k duration.
“It’s pretty hilly and tough,” she said of the course, “but it was definitely fun.”
Her time would have been good enough to win the 2016 Class 3A state meet. Jackson graduate and cross-country legend Anna Gibson, who broke the state record with a time of 17:35.20 at the state meet, won last year’s Beartrap Invite with a time of 19:42.74.
Thorvaldson thought she would run at a few junior varsity meets to start the season, but she was excited about competing against the best in the state right off the bat.
Whitman led the Laramie girls to the team win with Allison Dodds taking fourth and two sophomore teammates, Jayla Wulff and Emmy Johnson, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively.
Natrona County junior Avery Potter stayed in the second pack from the front at the mid-point of the race and finished sixth.
The Laramie boys were upset in the team race, finishing third behind Kelly Walsh and winner Sheridan. However, the individual crown did go to the Plainsmen.
Albert Steiner was the individual winner for Laramie with a time of 17:05.55, and teammate Liam McInroy finished second.
“I knew that I needed to push it up that hill,” Steiner said. “That kind of made my gap bigger and I made sure I stayed fresh down the hill and kept my pace up.”
Steiner finished third at the state meet last year, coming in behind champion and teammate Philip Henry. Henry did not compete Friday because he had not completed the mandatory nine practices before the race.
Steiner began his kick along the straightaway toward the finish line. He had created enough separation that the result was not in doubt, but his time was.
In the end, he was pleased with his time and hopes the result carries momentum along with it.
“I didn’t win this race last year because I was kind of sick,” he said. “It’s really nice for my confidence for the rest of the season.”
Kelly Walsh senior Josh Pierantoni was third, with fellow Trojans Ethan Mesecher and Josh Martin finishing seventh and eighth, respectively.