Antonino captures State cross-country championship

Photo by AJ Wheeler PHS junior Madison Antonino, in front, begins to widen her lead over the rest of the girls’ varsity division early in her race at the 2023 State Cross-Country Championships in Cheyenne on Oct. 21. Antonino earned the 2023 4A State Title, All-State honors and beat the course record by 1 minute.

Harriers wrap regular season

CHEYENNE – The fastest long-distance runners in Wyoming – including Pinedale High School juniors Madison Antonino and Cora Koci – gathered for 2023 State Cross-Country Championships in Cheyenne on Saturday, Oct. 21.

Antonino crushed the competition in the girls’ varsity division, snagging the 4A State Championship with an impressive time of 18 minutes, 17.20 seconds and a blistering pace of 5:54 per mile. Antonino received All-State honors for her achievement.

Leaving the competition in the dust, Antonino progressively widened the gap between her and the pack throughout the race.  Antonino crossed the finish line 41.2 seconds ahead of the runnerup, Ally Wheeler of Natrona County High School.

Koci played a role in the Jackson Hole High School (JHHS) girls’ varsity team placing fifth overall. The junior hit the finish line close to the middle of the pack in 63rd place with a time of 23:06.60. Koci beat teammate Aubrey Maestas by nearly 4 seconds.

The weather on race day cooperated with temperatures in the high 60s and a light breeze over the 5-kilometer course at the Cheyenne Country Club.

“If I was asked to create a picture of an ideal race day, this might be it,” said JHHS Head Coach Jeff Brazil.

Antonino, Koci and the other JHHS varsity girls stepped confidently up to the starting line that afternoon.

“The girls were the most focused and positive I have seen them in a long time,” Brazil added. “Everything felt like they were going to have a good day – full of big goals, but calm confidence as well. Well, we all had butterflies like always, but the team had a good feel to them.”

Antonino burst from the starting line with a group of the state’s frontrunners.

“She quickly found a spot in a lead pack of five,” said Brazil.

Koci and Maestas paced each other through the tough first mile, “linked together in a solid start,” Brazil noted.

Reaching the hill near the 2-mile mark, Antonino controlled the race, already establishing a significant lead over the competition.

“We changed Madison’s race strategy and it seemed to be working perfectly,” Brazil added. “The early pack was nowhere to be found and (Wheeler) was quickly falling off as Maddy slowly squeezed down on the pace consistently over the second mile.”

Koci continued to “look solid” as she and Maestas rounded the second mile, Brazil said.

Antonino expanded her lead from under 10 seconds to 30 seconds by the third mile.

“Maddy just continued to turn the screws, getting faster and faster as she got deeper into the race,” Brazil continued. “Cora and Aubrey continued looking for ways to earn the team points in the final stages of the race.”

Antonino crossed the finish line with an overwhelming lead on Wheeler to beat the course record by 1 minute.

Koci finished with a strong kick to pull ahead of her teammate by more than 3 seconds and post a season personal record on a particularly tough course, said Brazil.

“Cora and Aubrey were both cranking as best they could to help the team by lowering their score,” Brazil added.

The harriers next compete at the national qualifiers in Boise in November. Brazil is looking forward to each varsity girl on the JHHS team returning for the 2024 regular season.

“The girls are poised to take a run at a state title next year,” Brazil said.