Every big meet has some stories to tell. I don't propose to have highlighted below every last athlete who came up big at Saturday's running of Nike Cross Regionals Southwest, but the performances below are definitely among those worth a little extra highlighting.
Parker Mackay, Mountain Vista - All season long at Mountain Vista, it's been Paxton Smith or Joshua Romine at the front of the pack. On a day when every point was precious for Mountain Vista, sophomore Parker Mackay stepped up and delivered big as the low stick for for Jonathan Dalby's crew. Mackay's 15:18 smashed through a previous PR of 15:57 and quite literally made the Southwest regional crown possible to attain.
Jerald Taylor, Custer County - Like Mackay, Taylor delivered in a way nobody could have anticipated going in. Taylor ran just a whisker under 16-flat to win the actual small-school race (a couple more small-school entries from the Championship race were eventually placed in front of Taylor). Taylor took over a little before the mile and was never threatened thereafter. Taylor's previous PR mark of 16:51 was earned at Liberty Bell.
Carley Bennett, Lakewood - In case you weren't paying close enough attention, a combined squad of Bennett (photo, right) and a collection of other runners from Colorado Academy and Kent Denver ran in the large-school girls open race as team Runners Roost. They ended up dominating the large school scoring, but none was more instrumental in making that happen than Bennett. After a season-best time of 19:32, Bennett roared into Casa Grande to close her season with an eye-popping 18:36. Expectations may never be quite the same for this Lakewood freshman.
DiAnna Rowe, Greeley West - Greeley West Coach Rich Davis e-mailed me at one point during the season telling me that Rowe was getting ready to go "really fast." It happened on Saturday. Rowe's 19:24 PR from Liberty Bell succumbed to an 18:55 effort, and a fifth-place finish at the medium-size school race, at NXR-SW.
Henry Raymond, Poudre - Mr. Raymond has been a solid and serviceable runner all season long, with the probable highlight of his season--up until Saturday, that is--being a first-place finish at the Front Range League meet. Raymond came back with a fourth at state, but his fifth-place finish in the Boys Championship race at NXR-SW demolished all expectations. And now, Mr. Raymond has to figure out what to do with two more weeks of cross country season. Nike will be helping Mr. Raymond with his planning.
Emily Croft, Palmer Ridge - It's probably safe to say not many people expected the Palmer Ridge girls to win the medium-size school girls open race title. If Kelly Christensen or the Palmer Ridge girls were expecting it, they were keeping those expectations to themselves. But, it's clearly not safe to mess with these Bears. Of all the Bears who turned in big performances to secure the win, no performance loomed larger than Croft's 19:01. To put that 19:01 into perspective, Croft had never before broken 20:25. And her sixth-place finish went a long way toward the Palmer Ridge team title.
Katie Flaherty, The Classical Academy - Sometimes the big story comes a little deeper in the scoring order than Croft's effort fell. For TCA to win the small-school championship, the Titans needed a huge breakthrough against Salida, a team that had run better than TCA all season long. That big breakthrough came in a couple different forms, but the biggest contribution came by way of Flaherty's 19:35 PR, an improvement of 1:16 over her previous best 5K mark.
Cole Munoz, Widefield - Figure that the Gladiators just got a little more dangerous for next year. When your #2 guy starts dropping 16:07-ish kind of times, it means some of the pressure to produce that's been weighing on Maximilliano Martinez's shoulders just might end up getting shared a little. And that's very good news when you start projecting out to next year.