4A State Previews

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If Niwot is going to win this thing, the pack is how it's going to get done.

Yesterday, Colorado Track XC did 2A State previews. Today, it's 4A's turn in the spotlight.

We'll begin with boys this time.

4A Boys Preview

Top Teams in the Hunt: Palmer Ridge, Centaurus, Niwot, Silver Creek, Air Academy

What Does Each Team Need?

Palmer Ridge - The Bears only come out 7th in a State virtual meet, but we all know they're better than that? How do we know that? Well, for one, they keep winning. For another, they run a pretty rigorous set of courses around Colorado and so don't post the most dazzling set of results in a virtual meet. Their marks weren't even this good until they ran Monument Valley Park for 4A Region 2. But, if you're overlooking this team, you're making a huge tactical error. One key for Palmer Ridge is Kieran Nay. Nay missed the first half of the season and has slowly been working his way back to form. A big meet for Nay is even bigger for the Bears. Since Eric Hamer graduated, Palmer Ridge hasn't had a guy who can consistently dominate from the front, but they've certainly been able to send a flood of runners across the finish line in short order. If they can do that at State, they have an excellent shot at winning, no matter who leads the pack.

Silver Creek - The Raptors looked to be stirring from their slumber with a dominating performance at 4A Region 4. For the first time all year, all the pieces seemed to come together, including a very convincing 1-2 from Brock Dykema and Logan Simington. If Silver Creek builds on the foundation of last week's performance this week, they will be very difficult to beat, including another solid finish from James Lee, who typically does best on the flatter, faster courses. The memory of last year's state meet should be a serious motivator for this year's team. 

Niwot - It was only a matter of time until Niwot got to this level. Now that they're here, everyone else has to leave a thought or two for the Cougars in their state meet plan. Like Palmer Ridge, Niwot doesn't have a clearly-defined individual who's always the one to spearhead the charge. But what they do have is five guys who can get across the finish line in a tight pack. Niwot will be looking to start and finish their scoring early. They figure to be racing Palmer Ridge in that regard.

Centaurus - The Warriors are this year's Cinderella team. Very few people saw this coming, but, from their home meet on September 2 forward, this team his been on fire and taking on all challengers. They blitzed the Northern League meet a couple weeks back. John O'Malley leads the pack, but he gets plenty of help from guys behind him. If there's a question here, it concerns how close Centaurus can keep the 4-5 gap. This is an unforgiving field in which to have any kind of scoring gap.

Air Academy - Air Academy is an outstanding team, but the Kadets need a stellar showing from the front three of Cal Banta, Luke Thurman, and Dillon Powell. The 3-4 gap doesn't figure to go away entirely, so the big three need to provide all possible margin. And then the Kadets need a break or two to go their way. I don't know exactly what that break might look like on race day, but this team is too good not to get a mention here among the top teams.

Individual Analysis

Lots of guys in this field have posted blazing times on blazing courses. Brock Dykema, James Lee, Cal Banta, Aidan Fitzgerald, Cruz Culpepper, and a couple more at Desert Twilight. John O'Malley, Simon Kelati, and Dylan Schubert at North Lake Park. Cole Sprout at Desert Twilight and other assorted venues.

But, guess what? Norris Penrose/Bear Creek Park isn't one of those courses. And that throws the proverbial monkey wrench into the works. 

Sprout has shown plenty of versatility and course adaptability. On top of that, he's undefeated in Colorado. He hasn't even been threatened in Colorado. So, of course, he's your favorite here. 

The battle to be watched here is more likely the battle for second which, not coincidentally figures to exert a big influence on who eventually wins the team title as well. It's seriously risky business picking anyone out of this group, but I like Cal Banta's chances here. He's paid more dues this season on tougher courses than most in this group. 

And, if you're looking for someone to watch outside of the aforementioned group, it's worth reminding yourself that this is Thomas Chaston's home course. It's also worth reminding yourself that Josh Torres has run well here in previous visits.

Honestly, though, there's no telling in advance how the medals are going to go on Saturday.

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