Despite dislocated shoulder, Drew Lester helps Palmer Ridge win boys' cross country title

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Photo - Palmer Ridge's Andrew Lester and Jeremy Meadows race in the 4A boys state cross country championships at the Norris-Penrose Event Center on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette
Palmer Ridge's Andrew Lester and Jeremy Meadows race in the 4A boys state cross country championships at the Norris-Penrose Event Center on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

Senior Drew Lester helped Palmer Ridge shoulder the load Saturday with a runaway Class 4A state cross country title.

He's got the sling to prove it.

Lester didn't give away his spot at Norris-Penrose Event Center despite a violent tumble that dislocated his shoulder with 300 meters to go, and the Bears made good as the 4A darling with a 54-point team title in the boys' race.

Widefield had its highest finish in school history at second with 110 points. Air Academy took third (122) led by individual champ Ethan Powell.

"We weren't taking anything for granted," Palmer Ridge coach Larry Rudnicki said. "We needed to come out and take care of business, and we did that."

Lester finished sixth in 16 minutes, 18 seconds, a spot behind teammate Jeremy Meadows (16:15).

The Bears finished five scoring runners within 28 seconds in the top 20.

On their way to the awards podium, Lester had his shoulder popped back into place and put his arm in a sling.

He insists the pain would've been worse if he'd bowed out.

"You never know, you never know, because last year we lost by two points," said Lester, referring to his team's second-place finish to Durango at the 2015 meet. "Every point counts."

That's the kind of mindset Palmer Ridge will need heading into the Nike Cross Southwest Regionals at Arizona in three weeks.

The Bears, ranked No. 13 in the nation by DyeStat, will need to finish top two in the southwest or get one of four at-large bids to break into nationals.

No. 1 America Fork (Utah), as well as five other clubs ranked in the top 25, will accompany them in the region.

"We're going for that 2, if not 1 spot," Lester said. "If American Fork makes a mistake, trips up, we're ready to take that victory from them. We're ready to go."

Pack-punching Palmer Ridge didn't let a trip dislodge its season.

Coming out of the creek bed that sank so many other runners throughout the day, Lester caught his foot on the bank and landed on his right elbow.

No cries of pain. No time.

Instead, he picked himself up just before the three-mile mark, draped his right arm over his left shoulder, and ran into the finish.

His teammates certainly appreciated the effort.

"We wanted to finish state on a good note," Meadows said. "The last Colorado meet of the official high school season we wanted a good finish. We wanted to bring it. We wanted to destroy the other teams as best as we could."