Mason Norman and The Classical Academy look primed to defend their state titles this year.
The boy's 3A individual and team races look eerily similar to last year. Almost identical, in fact.
The top two performers from last year's state meet return for another battle. The Classical Academy's Mason Norman won this race as a sophomore, and will likely be eyeing to defend his state title, naturally. Norman backed up his cross country season with a solid track season, running 4:26 and 9:33. He took third in the 1,600 at state, and second in the 3,200.
Norman will have last year's runner-up, Elizabeth's David Fine, to hold off again. Fine finished third in the 3,200 behind Norman, and fifth in the 1,600.
Skyview's Tyler Scholl has been in the mix at state for three years now, and with his senior year ahead of him, I'd count him as a major threat. He had a bit of an off track season, but he's been consistent on the cross country courses all three years of high school. He was 13th as a freshmen, ninth as a sophomore, and sixth last year.
And then there's the dark horse, Gunnison's Colton Stice. I first started covering Stice in his middle school days when I was the Sports Editor at the Gunnison Country Times, so I've been able to witness his improvements over the years. He's been consistently moving up, and I'd say, ready for that final breakthrough race. He was eighth at state last year, 14th as a sophomore, and 23rd as a freshmen. His track improvements have been similar, with a third place finish in the 800 this past year, running 1:57. He was fourth in the 1,600, and sixth in the 3,200.
Stice was one of a few who tripled at state, the other being Denver West's Yasin Sado, who was perhaps the surprise of the outdoor season. Sado did not run cross country last year, but did run track. He finished second in the 800 in 1:56, second in the 1,600 in 4:25, and seventh in the 3,200, running 10:01. Perhaps one of the more frightening facts is that he opened his season with a 4:48 in the 1,600, and a 10:37 in the 3,200. (He got down to 4:25, and 9:51).
What can he do on the cross country course? Now there's a question we'll have answered in a few weeks. Based on his outdoor season, however, anyone eyeing a state title in October, should also keep an eye on Sado, because he's got the biggest curve of improvement so far.
The Team Race
The past four years have had two champions: Alamosa three times in a row, and then TAC last year, led by Norman and the coveted one point.
On paper, it looks a lot like previous years, with TAC and Alamosa entering the season as the favorites.
Using last year's finishes, the team race looks close among the top-three. A Norman repeat would be helpful for TAC, because it looks like they'll be battling for every point against Alamosa. On paper TAC could pack their entire scoring squad into the top-20.
Led by senior Elijah DeLaCerda, the Moose have three of the top 11 returners from last year. They've got front-runners to really elevate them back to the top of the podium. If they've got a weakness, however, it's rounding out their scoring.
This is where Peak to Peak could challenge. Led by William Ledden, they return everyone from last year's third-place squad. A year before that they were 15th.
A dark horse in the team race could be Gunnison. Last year they have two freshmen running within their top five. Freshmen typically have a fairly big curve of improvement, so it'll be interesting to see how they do this year.