Santino Apodaca, winner of the Division 2 race at Friday's Kadet Invitational, is key to Rocky Ford's hopes for a repeat state championship.
Note: This article will be updated as more information becomes available.
Starting with Liberty Bell, people around the state just might start to wonder about Dakota Ridge except that coach Mike Callor has an established tradition of playing it cool early in the season only to unleash the heavy artillery later in the season. That said, Mullen and Loveland clearly served notice that they are to be figured into the 4A girls and 5A boys races, respectively.
Other surprises, small or large, coming out of Liberty Bell included the size of Fort Collins's victory in the Division 1 girls race. Say what you want about Dakota Ridge and Highlands Ranch being in the Division 2 race, Fort Collins laid waste to some pretty solid programs in Cherry Creek, Boulder, and Cheyenne Mountain (though one does have to wonder how Cheyenne Mountain got into Division 1 but Dakota Ridge and Highlands Ranch did not--perhaps there were some coaches' self-selections figuring into that process about which we know nothing). The Fort Collins girls come out of Liberty Bell as the only clear-cut team to beat for a state championship.
Niwot, showing some of its potential for the first time this season, was impressive in both Division 3 girls and boys. Unfortunately, we didn't get a clear read on the Cougars against the bulk of the 4A competition who ran in the Division 2 race.
Even though Colorado Academy was at less than full strength at Liberty Bell, Faith Christian sent a message that they are not to be prematurely dismissed from the 3A boys state championship race. Also in that race, La Junta showed its first strong signs of life this season. And the Estes Park girls continue to turn in impressive performances, indicating that after several years of dormancy, the Bobcats may be a serious player at state once again.
Major kudos, once again, to Joseph Manilafasha (Denver North) and Miranda Benzel (Fort Collins) on turning in the fastest times of the day at Liberty Bell.
Out at Fort Morgan, it was all Thompson Valley, both boys and girls, though Fort Morgan's duo of Sean Turner and Ray Laws did manage to put up a 1-2 finish on the field at their home invitational. It's difficult to escape the conclusion that the strength of the Thompson Valley girls relative to rival Greeley Central has grown in the last year. The strength of the finishes by the Wiggins teams, particularly on the boys side, signals that they mean to be taken as contenders in the 2A races.
Down at Air Academy High School, it was all Allie. 18:18 on a course on which only two girls have ever broken 19 (and Allie McLaughlin was one of those two--the other ran for a living for several years). Doherty's girls continue to impress, this time to the tune of a 5-9-12-15-19 score. Rock Canyon's boys show continued improvement.
Nederland, after winning its second girls meet title in as many weeks, is beginning to look like a solid favorite in 2A girls. Rocky Ford ran without Jessika Kienitz, but probably would have been well behind the girls in blue even had Kienitz been in the lineup. The Robinson sisters give Nederland a formidable advantage on the remainder of the field. The Rocky Ford boys, however, gave every indication that they will contend for the 2A title once Victor Montoya is back in uniform.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the weekend came at Durango's home meet. Gallup (NM) swept the team titles, but Durango's boys fell to nearby 3A rival Bayfield. Anyone counting the Wolverines out of the 3A boys race is standing in need of a serious sanity check. Details of the individual races are not available as of this writing, but I will post them (now posted) as they become available. Word from the message boards, however, is that Durango was holding out two of its top five runners.
The Fruita-Monument boys put in a second strong showing in as many weeks, taking the team title at the Grand Junction Invitational. Alamosa's girls won two meets in as many days, taking the field at Grand Junction on Friday and then again at the Gunnison Invitational on Saturday. Unfortunately, we do not yet have individual results for the Grand Junction meet. Even so, most of the biggest challenges for the Mean Moose lie on the east side of the Continental Divide.