Colorado had a pretty decent history at Nike Cross Nationals going into this year's national championship meet. Colorado's history got even better at this year's meet.
It's a short list of states (I believe that California, New York, Texas, and Utah exhausts the list) that have sent three or more teams of a single gender to Nike Cross Nationals in any given year.
Colorado joined that list this year when the Battle Mountain, Mountain Vista, and Broomfield girls all earned qualifying bids. You would think that would be enough headlines for one year. Evidently, however, it was not.
Battle Mountain stunned just about everyone--including themselves--in winning the Nike Southwest Regional. Honestly, they weren't getting a lot of love in the discussions of potential top five or ten teams in the week leading up to NXN.
And, through the first two-thirds of the race, that "not very much love" seemed well founded. In the final third of the race, however, Battle Mountain (doing business that day as Vail Valley), made a furious surge to the front, leapfrogged several teams, and ended up third.
The Battle Mountain girls seemed almost as stunned as when they won the Southwest region, but maybe just slightly tempered by the realization that they didn't get there on anything like luck.
It needs to soak in for a while, for all of us, that Battle Mountain is a school with an enrollment of less than 900 students. It takes some powerful magic to make a national #3 cross country team out of that kind of enrollment. And that, it seems, makes Rob Parish a magic man.
Battle Mountain, however, wasn't the only Colorado team to surge late on a spongy Glendoveer course and end up in third. In fact, they were the second team to do it.
Before Battle Mountain even toed the finish line, Mountain Vista (doing business that day as simply Denver) also staged a furious late-race surge to scratch and claw their way into first place.
It can be safely said that a third-place finish for Mountain Vista was more on the radar screen than a third place finish for Battle Mountain, but teams that go to Portland counting on their reputation to tide them over usually have a very disappointing run of it.
Mountain Vista the disappointment meter low. The Jonathan Dalby's teams, this was a year of redemption. Last year, the boys failed to make it entirely after finishing 12th at NXN in 2015. The girls had a mildly disappointing finish of 13th last year that they improved on solidly this year.
Neither third-place finish is a high water mark for a Colorado team. That distinction belongs to the 2004 Smoky Hill girls, who finished second. Aside from that Greg Weich-coached team, though, the only other finish as high as third came courtesy of the 2009 Fort Collins girls.
Both teams lose some key seniors--Mountain Vista more so than Battle Mountain. But both should be back in the thick of things again next year. Both had tradition in their corner. Nothing on this road is easy, but there is something to be said for having traveled the road before.