Your Guide To The Week Of Cross Country Ahead

The Eagle Valley Invitational figures to be action-packed right from the start once again this year.

It's Monday! Time for one of my favorite writing assignments of the week--previewing the week's high school cross country schedule.

We start off this week's schedule with two meets on Tuesday. But Tuesday is about all these two meets have in common.

On the one hand, you have the Florence Husky Invitational. The course is flat and fast--if you can get to the finish line before cooking, that is. In addition to being flat and fast, the Pathfinder Park is egregiously sun exposed and is typically a bit on the side of windy. But, what can we say? The Pueblo, Florence, and neighboring schools that come here tend to be pretty well heat-acclimated.

They also hold a meet up in Elizabeth on Tuesday. Elizabeth is probably at least a good 1500 feet higher than Florence and well removed from the Arkansas River heat corridor. But, instead of heat, they have hills (make that HILLS) in Elizabeth. The course is all about refining character and very little about times.

Both of these meets now rank among the longer standing weekday meets in Colorado. Few weekday invitationals survive for long here.

Going to Wednesday, we get the RE-1J District meet at Sunset Golf Course in Longmont. Some district schools take it more seriously than others, and the hills are serious here. You don't typically think of Longmont being a very hilly place, but one quick drive by Sunset Golf Course will change your mind about that part of town. It was a big weekend for the RE-1J schools, so we'll see what they have back in the tank by Wednesday.

The "weekend" action begins on Thursday with the inaugural Nighthawks Invitational at Dick's Sporting Goods Park and the Air Academy Kadet Invitational inside the secure gates of the Air Force Academy.

Like the Tuesday meets, these meets figure to be about as different as meets can be. Unless someone has the bright idea of incorporating stadium steps into a cross country course, the Nighthawks Invitational should be flat and fast--provided the date dodges extremes of heat.

The Air Academy course is the anything but flat and fast. There is one especially gnarly hill. Many an athlete has been reduced to walking up that hill. And, almost everything is slopy--it seems you're always going either up or down. There are cactus plantations on the south end of the course that spectators must learn to dodge. If you don't learn to dodge them, you WILL learn the fine art of extracting cactus spines from the tender skin around your toes. And, the grass finish is, by almost all accounts, interminable. After dealing with 2.8 miles of this course, a quarter mile of deep grass has a way of taking it out of you. Redeeming features? The pine trees and typically a bit of respite from the heat.

The weekend begins in earnest on Friday. 

Broomfield promises to be in a surly mood for their home invitational. I believe Greg Weich didn't run his varsity at his home meet last year, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a different plan this year. Broomfield is a relatively fast course that has the potential to get a little warm as well, but temperatures around the state may be dipping by Friday. 

Dipping temperatures would be a good thing for the Fort Morgan Invitational as well. The Mustangs moved this meet back a bit from their usual date this year. It's historically a reasonably-well attended meet on an attractive course, but we'll see how the change of date impacts that.

There's the John Martin Invitational in Fort Collins. For a meet that incorporates a whole bunch of sidewalk, this meet has a legendary following. It's two good-sized divisions and usually draws some outstanding teams. It's also the last meet in the state known to break a tie with an arm-wrestling contest. The middle school portion of this race has been known to produce some epic battles as well.

And, if you heard rumors of some teams busting their travel piggy banks to go to Durango this weekend, that would be on account of the Southwest Sunset Classic. This will double as a regional site for later in the fall, so it's a case--for many, at least--of getting their regional course preview. Air Academy is more or less locked out of that opportunity, though, as they find themselves hosting their own meet this week. Somehow, though, I'm not too worried about the Kadets being able to handle the Durango course in another six weeks.

Anyhow, if you're accustomed to the Durango meet being Durango and a bunch of small western Colorado schools, you may want to go with a different idea in mind this year. Oh, and maybe the best thing of all is that the varsity races go under the lights. That part probably won't happen at regionals, though.

There's the Wolverine Invitational in Greeley. For this meet, Frontier Academy unleashes all the charm of Monfort Park on those willing to make the trip. We're hoping Monfort Park can handle all the teams coming to this meet--it's a hefty list. If Fort Morgan is left wondering where all the northeast Colorado teams went, this meet might be the first place to look.

And, finally for Friday, Colorado Track XC is sending this man to the Stegner Soccer Complex for coverage of the Arvada West Wildcat Invitational. Well, to be more precise about it, Jefferson Academy sent him first and Colorado Track XC is mostly just capitalizing on his presence there. Ben Hershelman likes his sunglasses oversized and his Friday meets flat and fast. He figures to get plenty of both this week.

The action resumes early Saturday morning, but with only three meets--two of them on the Western Slope.

Along the Front Range, Rock Canyon hosts their meet that has grown over the years into a quite sizable affair. Among those attending will be Albuquerque Academy out of New Mexico. The Red Army will take on a phalanx of very good teams hailing from mostly south Denver metro to Colorado Springs. Honestly, it looks like most of the northern Front Range teams opted for Friday meets this week.

On the Western Slope, if you're headed to Gunnison, you get to figure out how to deal with 7700 feet of altitude while running cross country. You might be able to glean a pointer or two on that from the college types gathered for their third of the meet. Right now, though, it appears as if most of the teams attending are already altitude-adjusted. 

And, the last meet of the weekend to start racing high schoolers is the Eagle Valley Invitational. I've covered this meet a couple times previously and always felt it would be a great meet to take my team to. This year, I get to do both. Gypsum Creek Golf Course is the place and it appears that TCA will be the lone school coming over the Continental Divide for this year's meet. I've been to lots and lots of cross country meets around the state, and very few courses rate as scenic as this one. 

For those who don't find a match made in heaven with any of this week's Colorado offerings, there's always the Woodbridge Classic in southern California. Evidently, people are really serious about getting out of Lafayette this weekend--both Centaurus and Peak to Peak are going. Palmer Ridge is also sending a delegation. There could be other Colorado entries as well, but I don't know of them yet if there are.