Last year's 5A state meet produced perhaps the most stunning margin of victory ever in girls' cross country in Colorado. There had been a buzz of anticipation about what Dakota Ridge was putting together, but the decisiveness of their margin of victory caught everyone a bit off guard.
The element of surprise will be missing this year for Dakota Ridge, as will state champion Alexa Rogers, but the Eagles figure to be among the contenders again this year.
Here is a quick look at what the season ahead holds in store:
Top returning athletes:
Kaitie Vanatta, Dakota Ridge – There are very few questions about Vanatta’s abilities. The question is whether or not she can stay healthy through the season.
Natosha Rogers, Dakota Ridge – Natosha gets one year to run without sister Alexa. She could be the key to the hopes for Dakota Ridge.
Eleanor Fulton, Highlands Ranch –
Miranda Benzel, Fort Collins – yet another contender for the Lambkins, solid and reliable.
Dominique Gerard, ThunderRidge – like
Jen Bremser, Sand Creek – one more cross country season to run. Can she shake the injuries and the disappointments that have plagued her seasons up until now?
Lynnea Sjoerdsma, Doherty – Will the change in coaching produce a positive effect for Sjoerdsma, who was on the edge of being among the state’s elite last fall?
Last year’s powerhouse teams:
Dakota Ridge – still a power, regardless, but how high they reach could hinge on Vanatta’s health. Even at 80%, Vanatta is a considerable force. Rogers and Paige Lillo should help to keep the team in contention all season.
Palmer – perhaps a bit of a surprise in finishing third in the state meet last fall, but the Terrors always seem to finish strong. Look for this year to be no exception.
Cherry Creek and Chaparral – both top-tier programs but neither quite reached the preseason expectations at state last fall. Both teams should be looking for a measure of redemption this fall.
Waiting in the wings:
Green Mountain – The Rams looked very solid through much of the season last fall. Most of the team is back and, if experience is still a good teacher, this team could be headed for an even better season this fall. This school may be on the verge of awakening the echoes of their cross country tradition.
Doherty – call it a hunch, but this team is better than it showed last fall
Where the power lies:
Not surprisingly, the power lies in the
Key questions to be answered:
Can Eleanor Fulton continue to improve as she did between cross country and track last year?
How will Vanatta and Reyna come back from missing track season in the spring?
Will Dakota Ridge hold things in reserve and try to explode at the state meet again as they did last fall?
The senior class is among the deepest this classification has ever seen. Will it be a race for the ages at state?