Peak to Peak's Jhenya Nahreini returns to run in her final state meet with hopes of finishing high in the medals.
Note: This feature has been slow in coming. It is decidedly awkward to write a state preview where your own team figures into the story. I've tried approaching this preview from several different angles and conflicting interests rise on every front. There must be several thousand ways to handle it wrongly and maybe, under the best of circumstances, one or two ways to handle it correctly. I've run out of time to discover those one or two ways. So, for the most part, this preview focuses solely on other teams and individuals who have earned the recognition of mention in a preview article whether or not I'm comfortable with writing about our own team. So far as The Classical Academy team goes, we're excited to run the race and expect to perform at our best--but that much goes without saying for a state race.
To my reckoning, this is the strongest 3A girls field ever to step up to a starting line. For several years running, 3A has had a handful of girls who could finish under 20:00 on most cross country courses. This year, there is a bumper crop of girls with that ability and not a few who can dip below 19:00 on faster courses. Bringing home a medal from the state meet ranks as a serious challenge.
The list of medal contenders is not short, and it certainly includes Kara Slavoski of St. Mary's, Sam Berggren of Middle Park, Jhenya Nahreini of Peak to Peak, Melissa Roberts of Lyons, Beth Jones of Eaton, Brandi Krieg of Grand Valley, Chiara Del Piccolo of Basalt, Jacie Harms of Pagosa Springs, Johanna Reed of Hotchkiss, Hannah Cooling of Buena Vista, and Courtney Bouchet and Kim Hansen of Estes Park. Don't be surprised if I missed a name or two on that list--the field really is that deep. We could easily see up to 20 3A runners going sub-20 at the state meet.
Of these, Kara Slavoski appears to have the best shot at a title. Slavoski teams with Allie McLaughlin as two big reasons why you need to be careful about how you race around Colorado Springs--it's very easy to get caught up into a situation where you pound yourselves every weekend and, as a result, find yourself a little too worn down by the end of the season.
Team-wise, Peak to Peak returns to contention even after graduating three seniors off of last year's team. Once again, Tim Flamer has the motor purring at the right time of the year. Nahreini has a solid supporting cast, led by Kayla Whitehead.
New coach Bill Ruth has the Estes Park Bobcats back in the hunt after several years of being a non-factor in the team race. It's nice to seem a team with a proud tradition rising again.
Estes Park and Peak to Peak finished the 3A Region 4 meet separated by a single point. It could be that close again at state.
From the western slope, Gunnison and Pagosa Springs staged an equally close one-point contest in their regional. Both schools figure to send solid contenders to the state meet. Pagosa, a perennial contender, probably brings greater experience to the state meet, but both are excellent teams.
Although the Brush and the Middle Park team haven't garnered a great deal of attention this year, both of these teams are better than the press clippings might suggest. On a day where everyone finds their best race, either of these teams could rise dramatically in the standings.