The Limon Badgers, led by Nicole O'Dwyer and Meg Bontrager (above), have come on as the late-season surprise team in the 2A girls ranks.
Note: This article originally appeared on August 31. I have left the original article intact at the bottom and added some more up-to-date information at the top.
Some of the early 2A girls favorites have dropped from the ranks of contenders, while other teams have risen to take their place.
Most noteworthy among the rising teams are Limon and Mancos. Limon surfaced at the regional meet with a stunning upset of heavily-favored Rocky Ford. With both Nicole O'Dwyer and Meg Bontrager running solid times, the Badgers mean to have a say in who is crowned 2A state champion this weekend.
Mancos surfaced more gradually through September and early October and earned their stripes by knocking off traditional southwestern Colorado powers Pagosa Springs and Bayfield--repeatedly. Although the Blue Jays fell to powerful Crested Butte Community School at the regional meet, it's too soon to count them out of the picture.
Early season favorite Wiggins disappeared from the ranks of state (team) title contenders when Shining Mountain Waldorf slipped by them at the regional meet and the Tigers failed to qualify as a team for state. Tara Richardson and Jayleen Erker, however, will represent Wiggins at state as individuals.
Another early favorite, Lutheran-Parker, should get a team score at state, but by way of the back door. Lutheran-Parker did not qualify a team for state, but did qualify three individuals. So, barring some sort of catastrophe, they should be listed among the scoring teams.
While all these changes have taken place, at least three things remained constant: Nederland, Crested Butte Community School, and Rocky Ford will bring teams to the state meet that are capable of contending for the overall title.
Although Rocky Ford lost to Limon in the regional meet, the Meloneers should be two-sport star Jessika Kienitz back for the state meet. That figures to enhance their fortunes.
The mantle of favorites, however, rests on the shoulders of the girls from Nederland and Crested Butte Community school. Both teams dominated their regionals and both teams should be able to keep their third runners high on the list of finishers.
At the individual level, this one should be interesting. Kelley Robinson of Nederland seems to have Tara Richardson's number, but the gap is never large. With the kind of effort that seniors often invest into their final race, it is far from unthinkable that Richardson could prevail this time. Both, however, might want to check over their shoulders (figuratively speaking, of course) for Erin Kelly of Crested Butte. While Crested Butte doesn't often venture to the Front Range or eastward for meets, Kelly's times place her squarely in the huddle of legitimate contenders.
Others, such as Nicole O'Dwyer, Maddison Garcia (Crested Butte), Jayleen Erker, Kat Robinson (Nederland), and Kelsey Corbin (Mancos) figure to be solid medal contenders but would need the race of a season to overtake any of the top three.
While the meets of this weekend left many questions unanswered, they certainly did much to reveal the shape of the 2A girls race.
The 1A-3A race at the Poudre SD Pre-State meet, in particular, revealed quite a bit about the contenders and who they have in the stable. We will not have to wait until mid-season to have a good idea of which teams hold strong hands. Nederland, Rocky Ford, Lutheran-Parker, and Crested Butte each brought teams to the pre-state meet. Had these teams been scored under the run 5/score 3 format of the state meet, scores for these four teams would have been something like: Nederland 36, Crested Butte 36, Rocky Ford 48, Lutheran-Parker 133. The other pre-season favorite in the 2A race, Wiggins, did not run at Fossil Ridge, but ran instead at the Pat Patten Invitational in Boulder on Friday. In a strong field, the Tigers placed two in the top 14, but didn't get a third runner in until place 70.
Certainly, there may be other 2A girls teams hiding in the weeds, so to speak, but early indications point to a tight three-team race between Nederland, Crested Butte, and Rocky Ford. Wiggins joins this group if they had another potential high-placing runner who did not race this weekend.
Crested Butte brought only three runners to Fossil Ridge on Thursday. If that is the extent of their roster, they will live a precarious existence all season. A local newspaper report (Ready, set, sprint: Titans dive into fall sports), however, indicates there are more. Nederland clearly has depth to the fourth and fifth positions, based on their performance at Fossil Ridge.
So far as individual contenders go, Jayleen Erker (Wiggins), Tara Richardson (Wiggins), Kelley and Kat Robinson (Nederland), Amy Polson (Lutheran-Parker), and Erin Kelly (Crested Butte) each had solid performances over the weekend. Brandi Krieg of Grand Valley, splitting time with volleyball, didn't race this past weekend, but represents an intriguing possibility on the list of contenders (correction, 10/22: Grand Valley has moved up to 3A and so Brandi Krieg will be competing in the 3A state race, not the 2A race).
Pending publication of complete results from the Delta meet on Saturday, another contender or two, both on the team and individual fronts, could emerge.
The season is young and much can change over the next eight weeks, but the picture certainly appears clearer now than in the weeks leading up to the start of the season.