Last year, the 5A boys classification was Wheat Ridge's show, from start of the season to finish. The juggernaut might have advanced to Portland for NTN nationals had not an unfortunate injury slowed one of their top runners. This year, however, it won't be Wheat Ridge's show. Wheat Ridge has departed to 4A, leaving a pile of hungry teams to compete for the gold trophy.
The individual race could be just as interesting. While the names of Evan Appel and Bobby Nicolls jump to mind whenever anyone starts talking about the individual race, there are several others who--with a little leap in performance--could be nipping at their heels:
Top returning athletes:
Evan Appel, Dakota Ridge – 2007 Foot Locker finalist, 5A state champion at 1600 and 3200 meters. Expectations ride on Appel’s broad shoulders.
Bobby Nicolls, Regis Jesuit – another 2007 Foot Locker finalist, third at 1600 meters, and second at 3200 meters in the state track meet. Nicolls carries expectations on his shoulders as well.
Walter Schafer, Cherry Creek – no more running in the shadow of Charles White. The leadership of the Bruins now passes into Schafer’s capable hands
Alex Balsiger, Chaparral, Kyle Lyons, Arapahoe, and Alex Weinheimer,
Danny Nicolls, Regis Jesuit – Bobby’s younger brother returns for their last high school cross country campaign together.
Austin Appel, Dakota Ridge – part two of the other high-profile 5A brother combo package, finished 26th at state last year.
Matt Bell, George Washington - came on in a serious way by the end of track season, should be someone to be reckoned with in cross country this fall.
Last year’s powerhouse teams:
Arapahoe – I overlooked this team in the 5A state track preview. Never again. The Warriors have the horses to contend again in cross country. Two seniors graduated off of last year’s team, but there is depth in this program and they are flourishing under the new coaching.
Cherry Creek – a perennially-deep program. The loss of Charles White will hurt, but a little more strength at the last couple of scoring positions could more than make up for the loss.
Regis Jesuit – one question, can they come up with a solid 3-4-5 to complement the 1-2 of brothers Bobby and Danny?
Rampart – faltered at the state meet and took big hits to graduation, but the nucleus of a competitive team remains
Waiting in the wings:
Monarch – surprisingly good for as young of a team as they were last year. This is a team that could make a huge competitive leap forward
Where the power lies:
Not surprisingly, the power lies in the
Key questions to be answered:
Can a single dominant team emerge from the mass of contenders or will this be a tight race all the way to the state meet?
Which of the dominant seniors will demonstrate the best team leadership? Can Appel, Nicolls, or
Will a succession of hard-surface courses and high-stakes races (Cherry Creek, Liberty Bell, John Martin) take its toll on runners’ legs, leaving a few of the early contenders out of the picture by the end of the season?
If you believe in luck, you have to admit that Rampart has had of lot of it (bad, that is) at state the last few years. Can they change that pattern?