Michael Duran returns as the region's top state finisher, but William Mayhew may be inclined to test that status this fall. Colorado Track XC file photo by Alan Versaw.
Even though pretty much every team in the region took at least one big hit to graduation this spring, you can still make a very good case that this region will be tougher this year than last. Last year's young pups are moving up to be this year's big dogs, and it should make for a very competitive region.
For a few years running, this region has come down between Cheyenne Mountain and Pueblo West. And, while both of these teams are indisputably still quality teams, it would appear that the ranks of 4A Region 5 may have closed up a little in the last year.
We'll start with Cheyenne Mountain. The Indians are always competitive, and sometimes dominant. The top five coming back from last year--William Mayhew, Thomas Staines, Matthew Fox, James Jones, and Gavin Ugianskis suggest that nothing about that is going to be changing for this year. Each of the five returns with a time of 17:40 or better at some point last season. Michael Coale also comes back with a time just over 17:40. Their track times from the spring back up their cross country times from the fall, except that we don't find Mr. Ugianskis in this spring's track results. Regardless. Cheyenne Mountain's is a daunting roster.
Pueblo West took a big hit when Corban Pagnotta transferred to to Rye, but the pieces of a very good team are still there. Assuming that Jace Montera is back at full strength this fall and joining Zack Retzlaff, Jacob Sloan (also missing from track this spring), Justus Bernal, and Austin Walrod, the Cyclones will be blowing through a few courses once again this fall. And historically, you can count on Pueblo West to be a team that's going to show us what they have early.
Surging upward to join the ranks of the region's elite is Widefield. Last year's superfrosh Maximilliano Martinez figures to be among the region's best runners this fall. Nothing about his track season indicated anything but continued upward trajectory. Matthew Arbegast is another sophomore-to-be who has shown considerable promise. As the depth of the roster continues to build, this team very quickly becomes a team that nobody takes lightly any longer.
Pueblo South has traditionally slid in behind Cheyenne Mountain and Pueblo West in this region. The Colts, led by sub-18 type Isaac Naro, are still a team of concern in the region, but they'll have to kick a little harder to maintain their traditional place in the order of things with Widefield climbing the ladder.
Pueblo Centennial, of course, returns Michael Duran for his junior season. The sky could be the limit for Duran, as he is also the top returning 4A finisher from the state meet last fall. The Bulldogs have three more returning sub-19s in the pound, but a big 4-5 gap and not an abundance of strong indicators emerging out of track season.
Woodland Park could be your new team worth keeping a very close eye on this fall. The brothers (twins?) Oppedal--Neil and Brett--went to the front of the pack last fall. Track season suggests that the longer they go, the better it is for them. That's a should be a good indicator for cross country. There's a long list of 19-something types from last fall's team who didn't necessarily show up for track in the spring that if they can become 17-something types this fall would transform Woodland Park into something of a cross country power. But, there are a lot of unknowns in that equation.
As with all 4A regions, there are four qualifying spots to state. These would appear to be the teams in the hunt for those four spots. At this stage of the game, Pueblo Centennial and Woodland Park would appear to be the two on the outside looking in, and it likely comes down to a matter of will for them. Can either push aside any of the four most obvious candidates to extend their season this fall?