Kelly Barmann said she occasionally feels pain in her left leg, the one that was accidentally shot four years ago.
She’ll twist it wrong or lean on it just right and — as if the 6-inch scar wasn’t enough — get a stinging reminder of why she’s been out of running all this time.
But the Cuesta College freshman sure wasn’t feeling it at the Fairbanks Cross Country Course on Tuesday, where she won the Western State Conference women’s individual title.
In her first season of running since shooting herself in the leg while hunting alone near her family’s New Mexico home, Barmann continued her charge toward the junior college state cross country championships.
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The Cougars women placed second, too, and the Cuesta men also advanced to the next regional meet.
In a harsh wind that punished any runner without the luxury of drafting, Barmann took the lead a few hundred meters in after the course bottlenecked and never relinquished it, finishing the 5-kilometer course in 18 minutes, 0.5 seconds.
“I felt comfortable where I was,” Barmann said. “I wasn’t striking the whole time. I felt pretty comfortable with the lead.”
Barmann got a close race from Glendale’s Nina Moore, who hung with the Cuesta standout and finished just 5.1 seconds off the pace. The Glendale women dominated the team standings, taking five of the top six places and eight of the top 11.
Cuesta’s Paige Peterson was 12th in 20:16.5. She and teammate Jennifer Love, who was 20th at 20:46.1, helped the Cougars to 89 points and their second straight runner-up finish in the WSC.
Glendale, the defending conference and Southern California champion, had 20 points. Ventura was a distant third with 140. The top seven teams in the field of 13 advanced to next week’s Southern California regional meet at Mt. San Antonio College, the qualifier for the COA state championship.
On the men’s side, Cuesta was paced by former Templeton High standout Paul Denlinger, who was aiming for a top-10 finish after placing in the top 20 at the conference preview meet earlier in the year.
The freshman finished eighth in 22:20.2 and was 49.7 seconds behind winner Francisco Quijada of Glendale.
“I felt really good about it,” Denlinger said. “My coach pretty much told me to go out with the leaders and just stick with those guys. I’m almost not used to running like that except on the track. During cross country, I kind of like to speed up throughout the race, but I tried it this time, and it worked really well.”
Glendale had five of the top 11 men’s placers and took the team title with 34 points. Ventura was second with 82, and Oxnard was third with 104. Cuesta fifth with 114 and advanced with the rest of the top 7 to the Southern California regional meet.
Jehan Mirzaei was the Cougars’ second men’s placer. The former Arroyo Grande High runner was 13th in 22:33.5. Teammate Taylor Castañon, a Mission Prep graduate, was 24th in 23:07.1.
Cuesta has been without former Paso Robles High standout Travis Hallanan, who helped the Cougars to the state meet last season and has been hampered by a hip injury.
Were Hallanan able to be in the lineup, Cuesta head coach Brian Locher said, the team would be much more dangerous. As it is constructed, the men’s team still has plenty of talented locals. “In the workouts, the top three guys, we’re always used to racing against each other in high school,” Castañon said. “As the season went on, we kind of realized we would do better if we worked together and became pretty good friends.”
As far as friends go, it’s the main reason Barmann joined the team at Cuesta. She hadn’t run competitively since she won the New Mexico state class 2A championship as an eighth grader.
With the hunting accident came a collection of hardware inside the leg to help her shattered femur heal. That stuff came out about a year ago, Barmann said, and even though she hadn’t run in years, it was her best way to get to know people in an unfamiliar place.
Now it’s a chance at an athletic scholarship. Locher said Barmann has a shot at placing in the top five at the state meet, but Barmann isn’t focused so much on placement.
Given a choice between a state title and a scholarship, Barmann said, “Definitely a scholarship. Placing is important, but I’m kind of looking at it from a financial aspect and my first goal is to help the team do well.”