A number of the 2A boys and teams who figure to make some noise at state this fall are pictured here. How many do you recognize? Colorado Track XC file photo.
I should probably begin this by laying out a few caveats. One, I have only a little bit more inside information than the average high school cross country fan in Colorado. Like the rest of you at this time of year, I'm constantly learning new things that have potenial bearing on how the cross country season will play out. In what follows, I do not propose to be anything remotely resembling a king maker. All that follows is one man's educated guesswork.
If a few teams find some extra motivation in their place of inclusion on (or omission from) this list, so much the better. Motivation is a great thing.
With that said, here are my hunches for how 2A will stack up come late October:
1. Nederland - I really don't know how you could take any other view on this. Nederland brings back the franchise for one more hurrah. They are a very competitive team and they've developed a little bit of a swagger (and I mean that in a positive way). What other 2A team has signed up for the Division I race at the John Martin Inviational, ever? Kelley Robinson and Rebecca Hermann are both among the classification's very best. It's not exactly clear who will fill in around them at the starting line, but there is no shortage of qualified candidates. Bailey Kuechenmeister is an obvious candidate, but rumor has it that skiing is an even bigger fish to fry for Kuechenmeister. In any case, when you only score three, it's tough to beat a hand such as Nederland is holding.
2. Crested Butte - Crested Butte has constantly found a way to be at or near the top, whether it's 3A (as in a few years ago) or 2A (more recently). Erin Kelly is gone, but the Titans seem to have traded in star power for depth. And, right now, they seem to have the depth to make a serious run. After Amber Scott, Abby Whiting, and Mina Moscatelli, there's going to have to be some development, but that particular hurdle hasn't been trouble in the past.
3. Lyons - It's hard to put the Lions this low. Mark Roberts always finds pieces to fill in the puzzle. Miriam Roberts and Olivia Raspotnik are seasoned and both are very competitive. How Lyons fares at #3 will have a great deal to do with how they finish this fall.
4. Telluride - Like Crested Butte, Telluride goes very nicely to three deep. They may go even a little deeper if some of their track talent shows up on this fall's cross country team. Rachel Hampton is the ace in the deck, but Josephine Bush is also very solid at #2.
5. The Vanguard School - The Coursers had all of last season to earn their stripes. Mostly freshmen and sophomores, they held their own against more seasoned teams. They're also deep. If the front group of Jessy Sweet, Nicole Daly, Lydia Blondin, and Mikayla Tolley can push each other, this team could be very dangerous. There's probably more upside potential with this team than any others of my top five.
1. Telluride - The Miners are digging for a repeat. They could have the horses to do it. Ty Williams figures to go for a third consecutive individual title this fall. Check out the historical results and see just how rare that accomplishment is among boys--regardless of classification. Nathan Loomis fills in the #2 position. If Telluride is vulnerable, it figures to be a #3. Three young guys figure to battle it out for that position, and two of them have name recognition by virtue of their older brothers--Jeff Williams, Brooks Rogers, and Cameron Bowman. That appears to give Telluride a very competitive five.
2. Lyons - The second place team is tougher to call, but I'm giving the nod to Lyons on the basis of the fact that they spend their entire season butting heads with much bigger schools. That has a huge impact on the end-of-season results. Sean Flynn and Ryan Boucher should be solid. I promise you that several number threes are already found, it's just a matter of their development.
3. Del Norte - With some roots in the San Luis Valley, it's usually pretty easy for me to root for the SLV schools. Del Norte has a solid entry this fall and, apparently, some reasonable depth. Kaleb Stephens, John Beiriger, and John Haefeli form the nucleus of one of the most underrated teams in the state. The big need for the Tigers is to work their way up against some stiffer competition.
4. Alexander Dawson - A fast course at the Wiggins Invitational gives the season best marks for Jake Rothman, Ryan Howarth, and Kyle Becker at bit of a bump. But the three are still a solid trio. The lack of track time this spring for two of them, however, is cause for some concern. There isn't much apparent margin for error, but this is still one of the better teams in 2A.
5. Crested Butte - It's a numbers game for boys cross country at Crested Butte. Ian Boucher and Forrest Smith are sophomores this fall and figure to be even better than they were as freshmen last fall. The Titans may have to steal someone off their soccer team, however, to complete the scoring lineup. Somebody will fill the slot, but it will make a big difference in the top five teams at state if the person who fills that slot runs 18-ish or 20-ish at the state meet.
Note: Other coaches may take a different view on this than what I've taken here. The preseason coaches poll will be published Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.