A little bit of Portland in Phoenix... Tait Rutherford negotiates the water hazard at Toka Sticks Golf Course. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Sometimes, the more things change the more they stay the same.
About this time last year, it looked as if the recent Colorado stranglehold on NXN girls qualifying spots out of NXN-SW was running its course. Both Fort Collins and The Classical Academy were taking big hits to graduation. Time for some new blood going to Portland.
Most people weren't counting on Fort Collins bringing in a blockbuster freshman class. Even fewer people were counting on the emergence of a very powerful Monarch squad in the 2010 season. But, both happened--in a big way--and Colorado is once again sending two girls teams to NXN.
Fort Collins validated its 5A state title with another title at NXN-SW, but this one was a lot closer than the last time. With each of their runners finishing the race this time, Monarch gave Fort Collins a fight from wire to wire but eventually succumbed by the margin of a single point. Fort Collins built a solid lead through their front two of Erin Hooker and Marci Witczak and had just enough margin the withstand a bit more balanced Monarch team through #5.
Although Fort Collins and Monarch claimed the NXN qualifying slots, the rest of the top ten was well-populated with Colorado teams. The Classical Academy and Liberty finished in a dead heat for fifth through five runners. TCA took fifth on the 6th-runner tie-breaker, however. Cheyenne Mountain added an eighth and an Eleanor Fulton-less Highlands Ranch team finished well in the #10 position.
Kailie Hartman and Hannah Everson advance to NXN as individuals with Kristen Kientz likely to gain an additional individual slot with the likely withdrawal of a competitor who finished in front of her.
If the girls' championship race played out more or less according to form for the Colorado teams, the boys race held something new--brand new, in fact. Fort Collins became Colorado's first-ever NXN qualifier through the regional qualifying system initiated in 2007. To get there, Fort Collins crushed the favored Albuquerque Academy squad and edged a solid team from Davis, Utah. Utah's American Fork--ranked by some as the top team in the nation--took the regional title.
Regardless of how it was done, Chris Suppes will be a busy man in Portland in a little less than two weeks--guiding two teams in the national championships of high school cross country.
Colorado also sends Spencer Wenck and Danny Carney as individual qualifiers. Wenck and Carney finished second and third, respectively, in the regional championship race. David Garcia and Griffin Hay also notched top-ten finishes to pace the Fort Collins effort.