Can Cruz Culpepper and Ares Reading lead Niwot to a state title?
The 4A individual race, and the team race already look to be one of the most exciting matchups set for October, at least on paper.
This looks like a battle between two titans: Niwot, and Air Academy.
And not just in the team race, but in the individual race, which could go quite a few ways. On paper, Air Academy's Cal Banta is the top returner. He finished third at State last year, and tallied himself quite a solid track season, running PRs of 1:54, and 4:16. Giving Air Academy a potential 1-2 punch would be teammate Dillon Powell, who finished ninth last year, and is the second returning runner. Imagine being the No. 2 returner in the state - and on your own team...
Can Banta and Powell tally up three points - the least amount possible for two runners - and lead Air Academy to a state title? Air Academy will need all the firepower up front that they can get, because I'd imagineCruz Culpepper, Ares Reading, and Niwot might have something to say about that.
Niwot's Reading is the No. 3 returner, and like Banta, he had a great track season. Reading's highlight and perhaps most revealing result was his 9:14 3,200 PR. That should translate nicely onto the grass this fall.
And then there's Culpepper. On paper - last year's state meet results - he's fairly far down the list, but this is one where the list does not reveal the truth. Culpepper had a solid cross country season last year, but his track season was stellar. Anytime a sophomore runs 1:54, and 4:11, you have give them a serious look, because that's national caliber. And while it was track and not cross country, a 4:11 miler is and always will be a threat for the win.
Call Culpepper a dark horse, but I doubt it. He'll challenge Banta, Powell, and his teammate, Reading, for the W in October.
And on that note, the team race looks like it'll come down to the result of how these four runners do - and their teammates. Moving some names around - notably, Culpepper up the list - Niwot is the team to beat. They could potentially have four in the top 13, and two in the top four.
Likewise, Air Academy could pull off the two-in-the-top-four, but they'll need some help closing the deal. And for a dark horse in the team race: Centaurus.