Brooke Hillman figures to once again be the lead runner for Paonia cross country this fall.
Telluride owns Western Slope 2A Girls cross country, right? Well, not so fast there. A county or two to the north is a team that maybe, possibly, could create some issues for the Miners. It's something of a longshot, but with Telluride searching for a #3, possibilities for at least one other Western Slope team start to open up.
Call that team Paonia. And, it's not that Paonia has never given Telluride problems before. It's just that when they previously did it, they did it as part of the Hotchkiss cross country team. Nowadays, Paonia has their own team, and it's become a pretty good 2A team.
Bumping Telluride off the throne is a tall order and by no means a certainty, but Paonia has steadily gotten better since they came onto the scene with their own program. Paonia finished 6th at last year's state meet, which marked solid progress for this team, but they need a hunger factor this fall to rise above that standard this year.
Brooke Hillman, who has been Ms. Paonia Middle Distance ever since she burst onto the high school three years ago, figures as the Eagles #1 this fall. But, she's also capably backed up by Nora Dransfield and Alexandra Eaton.
Dransfield had an abbreviated track season this spring (at least in terms of individual events) and so figures as something of a question mark entering the fall season. If Dransfield isn't ready or isn't out for cross country, Paonia's hopes take a hit.
Eaton is a hurdler by trade during track season, and made herself effective as a cross country runner last fall. If there's a great spot on your track team to go looking to new cross country recruits, that spot is the 300 hurdles.
Serious help from the middle school ranks appears to be at least a year away, so Paonia might have to make do with what they have this fall.
Katya Schwieterman is next up from last year's order and probably the only other member of the team with a solid shot at breaking into the scoring three unless there's someone coming up who just isn't yet on our radar screen.
Paonia never travels over the Continental Divide until State. So, most of us will have to look from a distance to see what Paonia is bringing to the table this fall. Just make sure you save room in your brain for this team as you start thinking of 2A possibilities.