5A Previews

Some of nation’s finest track and field athletes reside in the 5A ranks this year, making this a must-see season in Colorado.

The boys’ cast of stars includes speed demons Jeremy Rankin of Overland, Dominick Roberts of Denver East and Michael Hancock of team power George Washington, all ranked among the top 5 nationally this indoor season. The distances will be loaded with 800/1600 ace Charles White (Cherry Creek) and cross country show-stoppers Evan Appel (Dakota Ridge), Bobby Nicolls (Regis), Dey Tuach (Thornton) and Joe Manilafasha (Denver North). Chase Cooper appears to be the next great pole vaulter at Smoky Hill, clearing 15’6” at last year’s state meet as a sophomore. Overland and George Washington staged some terrific battles in the relays in 2007 and should do so again this year.

The boys’ team race should still be George Washington’s to lose; they won by 33 points last year and return plenty of firepower to complement Hancock. Joe Harris is the returning triple jump champ, and Quinton Dodson placed fourth in last year’s long jump for the Patriots. AJ Whitaker was a top-6 finisher in the short dashes, meaning the GW relays will once again be state-championship caliber.

As for those chasing the boys from GW, Creek will make plenty of noise with White, Kiel Pickett (sprints) and Roman Holmes (fifth in LJ last year). Palmer loses all-everything Daniel Blackledge but returns some key point-scorers from last year’s second place team, while Mr. Rankin will ensure Overland will not be an overlooked team.

Based on results from the almost-concluded indoor season, returning 800-meter champion Steve Kasica of Fruita-Monument should see some stiff competition from Charles White (see above) and Fairview's Alex Weinheimer.

The girls’ side lost several All-American caliber performers from 2007. Sarah Cocco, Ashley Cruder, Ari Curtis, Tara LaFerrara and Leigh Ann Ganzar have all taken their acts to the college ranks, but there are plenty of high-powered athletes left to watch in this classification as well.

LaTraia Scott (formerly of Palmer, now with Coronado) will battle GW’s Deven Hamlet for queen of the sprints and Kelli Ehardt of Rampart ranks among the nation’s best returning pole vaulters. Carly Allen of Doherty scored in four individual events (100h, 300h, LJ, TJ) at last year’s state meet and surely has college multi-event coaches drooling. The distance events will feature the nationally-ranked harrier squads from Ft. Collins and Dakota Ridge and Sand Creek’s versatile Jen Bremser. George Washington rewrote the sprint relay record book last year, but look for them to have more of a challenge this year from the likes of Smoky Hill, Montbello and others.

Other returning state champions include: Emmalie Pfankuch (Ft. Collins, long jump), Morgan Sedivec (Heritage, shot put) and Karen Wyatt (Palmer, discus).

The team race on the girls’ side figures to be a bit more wide open this year. Incoming freshmen could make the difference, as there are several who are shining this indoor season. Among those looking to dethrone the Lady Patriots this year are Heritage, Doherty, Ft. Collins (return state-qualifiers Ashley Foster and Jordan Johnston in the sprints as well), Rangeview (led by sprint stars LaKeisha James and Danita Wyatt), Eaglecrest (who return hurdle phenoms Brianna Patton and Lindsey Keller) and Littleton (led by distance runner Camille Logan).