Taylor Alexander is one of the reasons Vail Christian is among the team favorites heading into the 1A state meet. Photo by David Pressgrove.
This much is certain--Colorado will have a new 1A girls state champion this spring. Merino doesn't have a chance. Merino is now in 2A.
And that leaves a vacancy on the throne. Competition for the throne seems to boil down to four teams: Vail Christian, Dove Creek, Shining Mountain Waldorf, and Idalia. If you know a little bit of Colorado geography, you also know that four schools pretty well cover the span of the state.
It goes without saying that you either have to have a star athlete (or two or three) or unthinkable depth for a 1A school to be in the 1A title hunt. Merino had a little of both, but probably more in the way of depth. Still, an athlete who can single-handedly put up 30 to 40 points can offset a good deal of depth.
Shining Mountain Waldorf may have the 40-point athlete. Ginger Hutton is currently ranked #1 in 1A in the 400, 800, 1600, and 3200. To my knowledge, nobody has every pulled off a quadruple crown of the four longest individual events--in any classification. One thing that makes that prospect seem easier in 1A is that there would be no 400 prelims to deal with. One less race to load on the legs. Nevertheless, it would still amount to a grueling ordeal. But, if SMW is to win, something along that line needs to happen.
And, presumably, some of the relay points that SMW seems to be lined up for have come with Hutton's assistance. If Hutton runs four indvidual events, relays are out of the question for her. Without Hutton carrying a stick, it's not yet clear what Shining Mountain can produce via relays. So, there would seem to be some decisions to be made, but every decision has consequences in terms of point production.
SMW has four more athletes in line for state points--Tea Speek, Sarrah Claman, Paisley Sheehan, and Chloe Weber--but it's going to take a convergence of things turning up nicely for SMW to outpoint everyone else.
Dove Creek has less in the way of individual star power, but somewhat more in the way of depth, than Shining Mountain. The Bulldogs will look heavily to relays, probably without loading anyone on the team with more than two individual events. Hurdler Corissa Guynes is the biggest potential individual scorer for Dove Creek, and she could conceivably contribute 20 hurdle points all on her own. Madison Young should be placing high in the throws. Patch together three or four solid relays and it's easy to see how Dove Creek could be seriously in the mix of things on Saturday afternoon. Jessica Guynes, Shelbie Knuckles, and Kristin Knuckles are others who can augment the point total in individual events.
And, then, there is Vail Christian. One would expect something of a rebuilding year in the aftermath of the graduation of Ashlyn Gruber, but rebuilding sometimes happens on a very fast timetable. As Gruber exits stage right, freshman Taylor Alexander enters stage left and goes straight to the front of the 1A class in sprints and pole vault. Alexander could easily contribute as many as 30 points, plus take a leg on a relay. The question then becomes one of whether there are enough additional potential points in play to make a serious run at the title. Celia Smith owns the #2 pole vault ranking, right behind Alexander, but the picture gets fuzzier from that point forward.
If you like dark horses, one can be found along the lonely stretches of sand hills between Burlington and Wray. That school would be Idalia. Like Vail Christian, Idalia historically gets a lot of productivity out of the pole vault. Unfortunately, this is not one of those years where the PV looks to be ready to put 10 - 20 points on the board. So, it will be relays and hurdlers Bryce Schafer and Khristien Mooney doing the heavy lifting if the Wolves are to make arun.
Going up and down the slate of teams, nobody else seems to have the count of points necessary to compete with the big four teams. So, barring some major surprise, it comes down to these.
Events not to be missed:
100 Meters - Ashton Rinker of La Veta holds the rankings edge on Taylor Alexander, but one suspects that the race will be closer than the rankings would indicate.
3200 Meters - Assuming that Ginger Hutton runs this race, this is where she may be most vulnerable. Tai Ann Nittler of Kim and Sheyanne Warboys of Prairie both seem to be within the kind of range where it's plausible that they could make a race of it with Hutton.
4x100 - This one should feature Dove Creek vs. Vail Christian. Both teams need the points. It could get very competitive.
Shot Put - Dove Creek's Madison Young squares off with Kim's Alexa Feemster in this one. They are very close in the rankings, and these are important points for Dove Creek's title hopes.