Arapahoe (left) got out to a strong start, but Smoky Hill (right) prevailed in the end. Photo by Alan Versaw.
This year's Centennial League meet boiled down to a pair of contests between three teams; Smoky Hill, Cherry Creek, and Arapahoe. And, generally speaking, cross country meets go to the team with the best depth. Apparently, though, someone forgot to read the script.
Cherry Creek, the team with the most depth, narrowly missed both Centennial League titles--to Smoky Hill in the boys race and Arapahoe in the girls race.
It's difficult to point out a weakness in the Cherry Creek lineups. It's simply that Smoky Hill and Arapahoe were better on this day.
The boys' race went first. Through two miles Cherry Creek's Mark Choate appeared to be comfortably in control and on his way to a league title. But that fails to account for the pack of four about 30 meters back. Two of those four would overhaul Choate in the final mile of the race.
Arapahoe's Chris Davis would pull away for the win in 16:31. Marty Andrie and Kyle Ames of Smoky Hill would sandwich Choate in third.
Mark Choate led at mile two, but his pacing didn't take into account this group of four. Chris Davis, second from left, would eventually take over for the win. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Behind Andrie and Ames, the Buffaloes were slowly creeping up through the field--almost too slowly. Only a series of critical passes in the finish chute pushed Smoky Hill past Cherry Creek for the team title.
Part of the story for Arapahoe centered around who was not in the race. Although out of a boot and dressed in warm-up attire, Connor Winter did not run. If, however, you play "what if" games, insert Winter in the lineup and assume that he wins (likely a big assumption at this point), Smoky Hill still wins, but Smoky, Creek, and Arapahoe end up in a virtual dead heat for the league title.
If Winter does come back, this one could get very interesting at state in two more weeks.
For the girls, there was no exchanging of the lead. Olivia Anderson led wire-to-wire. Arapahoe's Colleen Koenig held close for the better part of a mile, but Anderson's torrid early pace eventually broke her free from chase pack. Even Anderson was dropping off her early pace by mile two, but it didn't matter at that point as her lead was by then insurmountable. Anderson would cross the finish line in 18:51.
Olivia Anderson started her game of catch-me-if-you-can very early in the race. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Using a cool head to keep herself back of the lead pack early in the race was Lauren Mills of Smoky Hill. After spotting them a substantial lead over the better part of the first mile, Mills gradually reeled in the entirety of the initial lead group (Anderson excepted) for a strong second-place finish.
The early pace affected not only Colleen Koenig, but most of the Arapahoe team as well. A dominating presence toward the front early, the Warriors did manage to hold places three, four, and five, but the rest of their ranks were infiltrated by surging Cherry Creek runners at the end. Another quarter mile and the team scoring may have seen a reversal.
A late charge by the Smoky Hill girls pushed them into third.
The Centennial League is split up by the gerrymandering of 5A regionals next week, but look for the big three to be back hammering at one another at state in two weeks.