In some respects, sprinter Emily Romo is the forgotten Bruin, but a very important part of the picture for Cherry Creek nevertheless. Photo by Alan Versaw.
This one has it all--big-time teams, a team with a history of disappointment at the state meet, great individual match-ups, and record-setting individuals. Expectations are, and should be, riding high.
It's hard to project anyone other than Cherry Creek as the favorite, but the trophies haven't been handed out yet. There will be a team or two determined to give the Bruins a fight to the bitter end. Also fighting against the Bruins is a history of having never won a state track title. The school that has won everything else under the sun at one time or another has never won a state track and field title.
If Jordyn Colter, Emily Romo, Ashley Miller, Megan McCabe, and a few others get their way, that all ends on Saturday. We shall see.
Between Colter, Miller, and McCabe, the Bruins own the top seed in five events. If they can make those seeds stand, that's 50 points, with plenty more waiting in the wings, including a bundle coming from relays. Obviously, the other teams must hope for a break here and there.
Cherokee Trail also brings a very strong team to the state meet. The Cougars counter Creek's strength with the jumping of Hannah Sparks, the jumping and sprinting of Shayna Yon, and an exceptionally productive set of relays of their own. To win, however, CT must squeeze all possible points out of competitors like Maddie Leatherbury, Amanda Andrews, and Charley Hatcher. There will be no insignificant points scored, or not scored, at state.
Honestly, these are the two teams most in the thick of things. Pine Creek and Regis Jesuit bring some spectacular athletes to the table but both will need the perfect storm to keep pace with Creek and Cherokee Trail.
For Regis Jesuit, it's Ana Holland and Kelsey Cunningham do the big damage. How big? Well, it's conceivable that Holland sets new state all-time records in three events. Maybe not likely, but well within the realm of possible. Cunningham has been atop the TJ rankings all season. But additional points may get scarce.
For Pine Creek, sprinter Ally Watt and distance runners Heather Bates and Kaleigh Kroeker hold the keys. Bates is still rounding back into form, so don't be too quick to set her chances aside based on her season times to date. The Eagles should be bringing a very competitive 4x800 to the table, and desperately need a couple huge efforts from their sprint relays.
Fort Collins has a stable full of potential point scorers to the meet, and the state's best 4x800 time at 9:15. But, aside from the 4x800, Fort Collins needs their scorers to beat their own seeds pretty much across the board to find themselves in the hunt on Saturday. The relays must overachieve.
There are several more fine teams in the field, but "fine team" won't get it done this year. This is the year of the exceptional.
Events not to be missed:
100 hurdles - Miss this one and you might as well turn in your track and field fan card. Dior Hall is back and qualified. Erin Bowers has been skimming the crossbars well all season. Carly Lester has been winning races left and right, and then right and left. Ashley Miller has been simply sensational. Assuming these four make the final, it should be epic. You might want to find your spot on the fence an hour ahead of time.
1600 meters - All of the distance events should be good, but the 1600 on Saturday appears to be the most competitive of them all. We'll definitely find out who still has use of her legs left on Saturday. It's the all-star field we've all dreamed about, and it doesn't figure to take five minutes to reach the conclusion of this one. Jordyn Colter, Rachael Chacko, Heather Bates, Kaleigh Kroeker, Erin McLaughlin, Erin Norton, and the list goes on and on, and on. To make this field required a qualifying time of about 5:12
Long Jump - There are five at 18 feet or better. That just boggles the mind. Look for a lot of maroon as the field includes Shayna Yon, Zainab Sanni, Hannah Sparks, Amanda Clements, and Talia Marquez. Yon comes in with the top jump at 18-10.
400 - Because I can, I'm limiting the sprint "can't miss" events to one, and my hunch is that the 400 is the best race of them all. Ana Holland will be targeting her own state record. Ally Watt, who hates to lose and has the speed to back it up, will give chase. And then you have a flood of 55 and 56-somethings behind them, including last year's state champion, Rhianna Williams. Don't miss it.
4x100 - Cherry Creek, Pine Creek, and Cherokee Trail all need this event. And they make up the top three seeds. A loose baton here could change the balance of the entire state meet. Don't be caught in the concessions line for this one.
High Jump - We have six entries at 5-5 or higher. Given the fickle nature of the event, don't necessarily expect this one to have all six remaining at 5-5, but--just as assuredly--don't expect 5-6 to win it. It should come down between Carly Paul, Autumn Gardner, Katrina Bacovcin, Ashlyn Hare, Rajon O'Quinn, and Haleigh Washington. Enjoy the spectacle.
See you all there!