10 Questions for State to Answer

10 questions just begging to be answered...

State cross country is nearly upon us. Four more days of anticipation. These may not be the top ten questions on everyone's mind, but--at least for the moment--these are ten that are bubbling on the back burner for me...

1. Durango or Palmer Ridge? Palmer Ridge, even with an effort that the team didn't find fully satisfying, simply ran away with this thing last fall. The Bears have enjoyed a solid season this fall, and remain unbeaten in the 4A ranks. But, the Bears haven't yet squared off against Durango. And, Durango has been on fire all season long. There's a sense of urgency for Durango that probably isn't in place for Palmer Ridge--the Durango team is very senior-heavy. It's do it Saturday or never do it at all for the Demons. Palmer Ridge, on the other hand, barely has a senior on their scoring roster. But, anyone who thinks Palmer Ridge will go quietly into the night is fooling themselves.

2. Who do like in 5A Girls, Part 1? Before the season started, a whole lot of folks (and I count myself among them) had the 5A Girls individual title signed, sealed, and delivered to Lauren Gregory. It was inconceivable that anyone would threaten Gregory, provided only that Gregory remained healthy. Well, so much for the inconceivable. Gregory still might win this thing, but Allie Chipman and Brie Oakley have risen up to make this a whole lot more interesting than anyone expected. Remember that 17:55 at St. Vrain? Remember that debut piece of domination at Arvada West? It all comes to center stage on Saturday.

3. Who do you like in 5A Girls, Part 2? Greg Weich has coached against Cherry Creek before. Or, perhaps we should say, "Cherry Creek has had to deal with Greg Weich-coached teams before." In the past, it's been Cherry Creek coming out on the short end of the deal. Today, four days before the state meet, you can make a great case for Cherry Creek. You can also make a great case for Broomfield. And, just to stir the pot a little, you can also make a great case for Mountain Vista. Only one can tote the big trophy out of the Norris Penrose Stadium.

4. How many of the conspicuously missing names from regionals will be on the starting line for state? I'm guessing most will, but it's a long list of names, to include Allie Chipman (I have word she will be running at state), Ben Dingman, Holly Bent, Jeremy Meadows, Amy Leasure, Joseph Krafsur, Wyatt Lehr, Phoebe Powell, Miles Hatton, Lisa Swartz, and many more. Each of these are ones who could make a substantial difference for their teams. There are others whose regional performances hint that they were trying to run through injuries at regionals. But, cross country never has been an injury-free sport, and sometimes disappointment stings deep. We all want to see everyone who has earned the spot on the starting line, but there will be absences. And, some results will turn on those absences.

5. Alamosa, Lamar, or Frontier Academy? Early in the season, Lamar had the upper hand here. But, at last week's regional race, Alamosa dominated. Can Lamar rise up for one more huge effort of the order they were posting almost weekly early in the season? Can a quiet Frontier Academy team slip in and surprise them both?

6. Paul Roberts? It seems almost a foregone conclusion, but it's when you start thinking in terms of foregone conclusions that you get yourself in trouble. If Paul Roberts wins the 2A race on Saturday, he will become Colorado's first four-time male state champion. Adam Goucher didn't do it. Andy Montanez didn't do it. Ray Harvey didn't do it....

7. Does the Air Academy bus have brakes? We'll be watching closely to see if this team can post the all-classification set of best times on Saturday. They won't be in the same race as Broomfield, Cherry Creek, and Mountain Vista, but you can bet they will be racing them.

8. How real is the Vista Nation phenomenon? Saturday's state meet is only the first of what could be three stages of an answer to this question. The coaches poll had the Golden Eagles as a unanimous #1, and their regional perfect score would lend its full support to that assessment. What will we see, and what will the nation start to see, on Saturday?

9. Can a 1A school really run the table in 2A Girls? The current CHSAA directory lists the enrollment of Heritage Christian Academy as 70 students. Obviously, among those 70 are a few gifted runners, but they didn't all enter high school looking that way. This school is a great example of what can happen when a coach dedicates himself to a cause and a couple of girls (that would be Rachel and Rebekah Rairdon) start a fire. And, yes, it helps that they're twins--two in the same grade can stoke a far bigger fire than one. Right now, HCA is the perfect storm of events that lead to small-school success.

10. Peak to Peak or Salida? It seems singularly fitting that the final coaches poll has these two teams locked in a dead heat for first in 3A girls. On the one hand, you have the depth, passion, experience, and single-minded mission to rewrite last year's story of the Salida team. On the other hand, you have the best freshman class 3A has ever seen at Peak to Peak. And, clearly, Peak to Peak is on a mission of their own here. It's entirely possible Salida parks their entire scoring five between Peak to Peak's 2 and 3. Salida needs to keep their entire scoring five ahead of Peak to Peak's 4. This one will be so worth watching. It is a crying shame one of these teams has to lose.