Ft. Collins Runners Roost Preview

French Field in Fort Collins could see the first major salvo of the track and field season as Fort Collins High School hosts the 2008 Runners’ Roost of Ft. Collins Invitational.

Twenty-seven schools are hoping the forecast of sun and low-60s temperatures holds true, as last year’s meet was cancelled midday due to poor weather. Regardless, many top-notch marks came from last year’s meet and this year should be even better.

While many events will be hotly contested, maybe none more so than the boys 3200. The hosts’ Clif Campbell will face quite a challenge from 5A cross country champion and Footlocker Finalist Evan Appel of Dakota Ridge and fellow Footlocker Finalist Bobby Nicolls of Regis. Other top-10 harriers Dart Schwarderer, Scott Fauble (both Wheat Ridge), Walter Schafer (Cherry Creek) and Andrew McGee (Rocky Mountain) could be in the race as well. If NSIC indoor mile champion Charles White of Cherry Creek decides to move up, this will be as good of an early-season matchup as there could be.

If White decides to move down to another of his favorites, the 800, he could find outstanding challenges from Mullen’s Andrew Berberick, Broomfield’s Ian Donaldson and Matt Biegner, and Fossil Ridge’s Ben Peterson. Those four finished 3,4,5 and 7 at last year’s 4A state meet. Henry Cowhick of 5A XC champion Wheat Ridge is a rising star in this event as well. Littleton, which has already clocked 8:04 and 3:25 relay times, could be a factor here. Chaparral, last year’s 5A champion in the 4x8, will be in Ft. Collins Saturday and should not be counted out of any of the middle distance events.

White and Schafer are not the only stars for the Bruins. Kiel Pickett is one of the state’s top sprinters, and depth in the throws and jumps helped the perennial power to a close victory over a strong Arapahoe squad at last weekend’s Cherry Creek Invite.

The field events should provide plenty of fireworks as well. The pole vault could be an aerial show between Rocky Mountain’s Andrew Schall (fifth in 5A last year), Darian Vall of Longmont (fourth in 4A) and Elliot Beski of Mullen (ninth in 4A). Out in the shot ring, Cheyenne Central’s Justin Robert, the Wyoming indoor champion this winter, and teammate Matt Cook (fourth) will meet Longmont’s Casey Honeycutt (fifth in 4A in 2007). Fellow Trojan Beau Brittenham is a state-championship contender in the high and triple jumps, and should see action in both specialties Saturday.

As you can see, Longmont is one of the best teams in Colorado this year, and the headliner for the Trojans is sprinter Matt Butcher. Last year’s 4A 200 and 400 champ, with PRs well south of 22.0 and 48.0, is a pre-meet favorite for athlete-of-the-meet honors.

The girls’ side of the meet may be even more deeply contested. Cheyenne Central, the Wyoming indoor team champion in 2008, will square off with 5A powers Cherry Creek, Ft. Collins, Dakota Ridge and Rocky Mountain. Last year’s top three teams in 4A, Mullen, Thompson Valley and Broomfield should all factor in the mix as well.

This meet always produces outstanding early-season 3200 marks, and this year should be no exception. The class of Colorado cross country, Ft. Collins and Dakota Ridge, have several potential entries such as Alexa and Natosha Rogers for the Eagles and Miranda Benzel for the Lambkins. Thompson Valley’s Becky Schmitt (third in 4A XC) is entered in the event. Cami Logan and Eleanor Fulton of Littleton, both top-5 finishers in the Simplot mile, could see action here if not in their specialty.

The 4x800 has the potential to be a great race as Mullen and Thompson Valley could restage their close battle from last year’s 4A meet, while Windsor’s third-place team from last year returns in tact. Chaparral ran a fine 9:53 last week, Cheyenne Central won the state indoor title in Wyoming, Rocky Mountain returns sub-2:20 800 runners Nikki Long and Aliese Willard, and Dakota Ridge and Ft. Collins could choose this event as their showcase as well. Depending on how coaches play their cards, the open 800 and 1600 races will be fun to watch, too.

The shorter races will feature plenty of star power. Broomfield’s Kayla Wein is the defending 4A champion in the 100-meter hurdles, and her teammate, Ashley Miknis, scored top-5 finishes in both hurdle races in 2007. The longer sprints could see several auto qualifiers: Collins’ Ashley Foster is a multi-event qualifier from a year ago; Wheat Ridge returns sub-25 200 runner Chantel Bernabo; Mullen’s Laura Palmere scored in all three open sprint events at last year’s state meet and teammate Vanessa Fabrizio joined her in the 400 and finished ninth in the 800; Thompson Valley’s Liz Tremblay (fourth in 2007 4A) will run the open 400.

The field events could be a showcase for Mountain View’s Amy Medina. She has already produced marks of 5’4” and 35’8” (TJ) and is the leading returner in 4A in the latter. Kelsey Grimm of Chaparral jumped over 36’0” last year, and Windsor’s Rachel Weakland was a 35-foot jumper last year as well. Cheyenne Central’s Rebecca Ditto won the state indoor long jump (16’8”) and finished second in the triple jump (36’5.5”).

Longmont’s Liz Stover is the 4A record holder in the pole vault (12’7”) as well as a top-notch long jumper and hurdler. Stover has already cleared 12’6” this season as she bids to regain the state’s all-classification pole vault record. Star of Broomfield’s state-championship basketball team, junior Chaundra Sewell, should make her presence felt in the high jump.

The Sabercats of Fossil Ridge feature one of the state’s finest throwers in senior Liz Johnson. She is the two-time defending 4A champ in the discus, and won the shot put last year as well. Fellow Northern Conference star Anna Avila of Mountain View will be at the meet, and could face state-qualifiers Ashley Snow (Broomfield) and Kate Huffsmith (Thompson Valley) in the discus, and Rocky Mountain’s Natalie Houtz (shot).

Teams entered in the meet include Broomfield, Castle View, Chaparral, Cherry Creek, Cheyenne Central, Dakota Ridge, Douglass County, Fort Collins, Fossil Ridge, Longmont, Littleton, Monarch, Mountain View, Mullen, Poudre, Rocky Mountain, Thompson Valley, Wheat Ridge, and Windsor.