The Best of Colorado High School Cross Country 2008

Most Surprising Performer - Joseph DeMoor, Senior, Buena Vista HS

Since I've removed all mystery about at least one piece of recognition with the cover photo, let's go to that to that category first:

Must Suprising Performer - Joseph DeMoor, Buena Vista HS - went from an unspectacular sixth in the 3A state race in 2007 to a dominating first (and third best time overall) in the 2008 3A state race. He put an exclamation point on that by qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals and then finishing 10th there. Something tells me brother Seth had something to do with this transformation.

Best Job of Coaching - Kenny Wilcox, Salida HS - Wilcox's Lady Spartans ran well all season but put things together in a remarkable way at state. When everyone (including me) was trying to figure out if Peak to Peak or Estes Park was going to come out ahead, Salida put all the pieces together and slipped ahead of both for second place in the 3A girls race. For years, Salida has taken teams to state and come back with frustrating finishes. Not this year. Watch out for this team next year.

Best Rivalry - Bobby Nicolls vs. Evan Appel. No need to put the teams down here. Everyone knows where these two are from. Nicolls got the best of the early season races, but Appel had the upper hand later in the season. Unfortunately, Nicolls was apparently not running at full strength late in the season and we missed much of what this rivalry could have been.

Best Meet - Year in and year out, my good friend Mark Roberts runs a fabulous meet at the St. Vrain Invitational. The course is great--it's actually cross country! The meet organization is unsurpassed. The awards are done promptly and names are almost always pronounced correctly. The meet brings schools of all sizes, 2A to 5A. And, Lyons is simply a cool place to hold a meet. Finally, extending the recognition a little... Doug Duffy and Jesse Johnson at Niwot help put this meet on as well.

Gutsiest Performance - Nothing comes close: Allie McLaughlin at Foot Locker Nationals. I was unable to watch this one live, but when I saw the race video, my jaw hit the floor. So, who else in this country would take on Ashley Brasovan, Kathy Kroeger, and Jordan Hasay by lighting things up like that from the start? Who else could come that close to finishing the job? Allie, thanks for that memory!

Best Team to Emerge as a New Power - Nederland girls. Unreal. This is a 2A school with just over 200 students. And they put three girls in under 20:00 at the state meet. To put that in perspective, only six 5A teams managed to put three girls in under 20:00.

Best Expression of the Team Concept - Falcon HS boys. When nobody could figure who would run away with the 4A boys team title, Falcon's 3-4-5 put together their best race of the season to easily outdistance the competition. Subsequently, Wes Rickman and Kevin Johnson decided to put their eggs in the NXN basket, and the team traveled together to Tempe for the NXN SW Championship race. Falcon probably also qualifies as the most improved team of the year--going from not even qualifying a team for state in 2007 to winning the 4A state title in 2008.

Second Most Improved Team - Colorado Academy boys. No offense intended, but these guys were a pretty mediocre 15th among 3A teams in 2007. They came back as a bona fide threat for the 3A title in 2008, eventually finishing third. Oh, and one of their scoring runners went that afternoon and played in the state soccer playoffs. If Tracy Peterson could convince that young man to run full-time XC ....

Best Split-Sport Athlete: Aside from Hondo Katz (just mentioned above), consideration would also have to go to Brandi Krieg of Grand Valley. Krieg starts on the volleyball team there and ran a pretty nifty 19:19 to finish 10th among 3A girls. She did that without the supporting cast of a team to run for at state. We haven't heard the last of her.

Best One-on-One: Kaitlin Hanenburg vs. Sam Berggren, 3A State Girls. Sam Berggren, on her birthday, decided to make a race of this at about 1.5 miles. After dropping about 20 meters back, she pulled alongside Hanenburg and stayed there the next 1.5 miles. Neither runner could drop the other. At 400 meters, Berggren--the state's premier quarter-miler--stepped on the throttle and made a break. Hanenburg responded and pulled even. The two locked into a dramatic sprint down the finish stretch with Hanenburg eventually breaking free. See Ken Regan photo below.

Best Program to Move Up a Classification - Roosevelt. Moving from 3A to 4A is no small leap. Roosevelt answered that challenge this year by finishing 8th among 4A girls teams and 15th among 4A boys teams. None of the other teams that moved up a classification came close to those numbers.

Best Colorado Contingent Ever at Foot Locker Midwest - Joseph Manilafasha, Evan Appel, Andrew Berberick, Joseph DeMoor, Andrew Roberts, and Walter Schafer all in the top 15.  Very nice.

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