Devon Peterson is the top returner on a strong, deep, and experienced Cherry Creek squad. Photo by Alan Versaw.
2014 Colorado Girls State Champion: Fort Collins
2014 Colorado Girls State Runner-Up: Monarch
Colorado Representation at NXR-SW 2014: Monarch (4th), Fort Collins (5th), Mountain Vista (6th), Cherry Creek (7th), Cherokee Trail (12th), Mountain View (13th), Battle Mountain (16th), Fossil Ridge (17th), Palmer Ridge (21st)
Last year, and for the first year ever since Nike Cross Regionals began, Colorado did not send a girls team to NXN. Nobody from Colorado is looking to repeat that scenario this year. But, it's also easy to look at the list of graduates from last spring and wonder if the Colorado teams will be as strong this year as they were last year. On paper and early in August, probably not, but sometimes a season of work has a way of changing our perspective on things.
Cherry Creek checks in as the top team in a virtual meet of returning runners, and they probably merit that status. Even without Jordyn Colter coming back (who didn't run at NXR-SW 2014, anyway), Cherry Creek has a roster loaded with talent and a fresh new winning attitude. Devon Peterson, Lillian Markusch, and Katie Plomondon are each established sub-19s at altitude. And there will likely be more this season. This team is clearly trending upward.
Monarch took several big hits to graduation, but that seems to mean only that Holly Bent and Audrey Lookner become a little more visible up front. Pending what comes up in the freshman class, Monarch probably isn't as deep as they've been in some recent years, but there's still plenty of pop in the top seven, enough that the Coyotes won't be hurting for an up-front kind of presence at every meet they go to.
Fairview had a brilliant early season last year that trailed off a little by the end. They still have to show they can finish well, but this is clearly one of the state's most dangerous teams. Maya Browning is sub-18 kind of fast, and she is surrounded by a pack of teammates who ran right around 19 minutes last fall.
Pine Creek suffered a couple of key losses to graduation and had another runner change schools. It will be an uphill battle for the Eagles to return to the level they attained last fall, but this is by no means a team to be taken lightly.
Mountain Vista came on seriously in track this spring and could be this year's Colorado breakout team in the fall. With some reinforcements potentially coming up from the middle school ranks, the Golden Eagles already return a stalwart roster that includes Allie Chipman, Madison Easton, and Jessica Nats. The recent trajectory for this team has been sharply upward. If that trajectory continues into this fall, it's not unthinkable that this team wins a state title this fall.
Fort Collins returns Lauren Gregory and a trainload of tradition, but graduation definitely stuck it to this team. For Fort Collins to return to NXR-SW as a team with a serious chance of advancing, the next two months will need to see considerable development of depth. On paper, it's not there right now, but an incoming freshman or two and an athlete or two stepping up from last year's level could change things rather quickly.
Air Academy checks in as a potential wild card. Katie Rainsberger leads a key group of three returners and two solid freshmen stepping up into the roster could have this team soaring high by the end of the season. Niwot is another entry from the 4A ranks that has enough depth to compete at the level required to hold your ground at NXR-SW.
Individually, Lauren Gregory and Katie Rainsberger are the names that jump quickly to the fore. Allie Chipman and Kayla Young are two more individuals who could potentially threaten as individual qualifiers for NXR-SW.