State Track Hints at What's Ahead for XC

Arapahoe's Connor Winter, who did not run cross country last fall, was arguably the state's major find as a distance runner this spring. Photo by Alan Versaw.


     If you run or coach cross country, you've probably already started thinking about this fall's season.

     And last weekend's state meet results tell us a great deal about the cards that various schools are holding coming into this fall's cross country season.

5A Boys

     If Connor Winter and Jason Kearns at Arapahoe get a solid supporting cast, they could realistically threaten Regis for the position of pre-season favorites. By virtue of the fact that Smoky Hill qualified two runners for state in a very tough 3200 field, they have the look of a team that could potentially contend this fall. Coronado's Dusty Solis acquitted himself well in the 800, but no other Cougar underclassmen made it to state, indicating a need for solid development over the summer for the returning runners from last fall's third-place team. The individual title seems wide open right now with Walter Schafer as a slight early favorite, followed by Danny Nicolls, Connor Winter, and Dusty Solis.

5A Girls

     State track indicates pretty strongly that this could be a very competitive year for Colorado's large-school classification for girls cross country. Fort Collins put four girls on the starting line in the 3200 and three of them are back this fall. Boulder also put four girls onto the starting line, with Kelsey Lakowske and Sam Lewis both earning high places. Presumably, Birdie Hutton returns to compete for Shining Mountain Waldorf in the fall, but the other three form the nucleus of a very potent cross country team for the Panthers. And, let's not forget about Highlands Ranch. Although Kristen Kientz's season never quite got off the ground due to an injury, she should be back at full strength in the fall, and both Eleanor Fulton and McLane Ritzel both looked very good at state. Dakota Ridge probably experiences a bit of a rebuilding year this fall, but--coming into the season--it still looks like the most competitive team race we've seen in years.

4A Boys

     Falcon and Wheat Ridge take enormous hits to graduation. Both have some talent returning, as should be expected, but this really does throw the race wide open. Niwot's Alex Paul and David Perry ran well at state. The Cougars must overcome, however, the tendency toward frustrating performances that plagued their races last fall. If they do that, watch out. Although Castle View's Chris Ganem seems to thrive on shorter distances, his performances at state suggest he could rise to become one of the leading contenders for the 4A individual title this fall. See a note about Shawn Dubbs under 2A Boys, below.

4A Girls

     Thompson Valley takes huge hits to graduation, but the pipeline is far from empty. Karina Ernst proved her mettle this spring as a mere freshman. If Alicia Randall can return to form after an injury and the back-from-soccer girls perform to expectations, you should see Thompson Valley battling for a state championship yet again. Cheyenne Mountain is another team that will look to lean heavily on talent returning from spring sports other than track. The state 3200 suggests Greeley West's Sarah Swenson and Pueblo West's Anna Marshall own the inside track to the individual championship. Things can change over the summer, however. Stay tuned as this one could get very competitive.

3A Boys

     Exit Joseph DeMoor and Andrew Roberts. Who will fill the vacuum? Last fall, it appeared Amos Bowen was ready to fill the vacuum, but the track season was not so kind to Bowen. While still figuring among the contenders, Bowen needs to be ready to face challenges from Ryan Poland, Derek Laue, John Metzger, and Zach Pfeifer (who may have overtaken Lyons teammate Dylan Donohoe during the track season). And, don't count out the crew from Colorado Academy--Hondo Katz ran very nice 8s and 16s for Mullen, while the rest of the group, including freshman phenom Nick Taylor, ran for Chatfield this spring. Team-wise, each of last year's top five finishers seem to have horses in the stall. This would not be a good summer to be caught slacking off.

3A Girls

     Will there ever be a reprieve from the pressure cooker that is 3A girls cross country? Kaitlin Hanenburg won the 1600 and 3200 titles, but just barely over a very hungry Kara Slavoski. Sam Berggren's 1600 suggests she means to be heard from again this fall. Chiara Del Piccolo, Johanna Reed (see 2A track results under Paonia), and Brandi Krieg are giving every indication that the western slope will be heard from again this fall. Shelby Stableford has only gained confidence and experience this spring. Melissa Roberts promises to be in the hunt, as well. Medals will be tough to come by this fall. Although TCA graduates two off of last fall's cross country team, those two ran mostly 4s and 8s this spring, so the Titans will be bringing plenty of seasoned hands to the starting line this fall.

2A Boys

     Probaby no classification or gender is as wide open to the infusion of new blood as 2A boys. Gone are Steven Stoot and almost the entire state teams for Rocky Ford and Wiggins. Tye Williams of Norwood may or may not find a place to run cross country in the fall. Shawn Dubbs runs cross country for 4A Woodland Park (and pencil him in as an individual title contender there while we're thinking of him). Thus, Eric Lewis of Mancos just may be the man of the hour. Both his cross country finish last fall and his 3200 finish this spring suggest that he will be a serious contender for the individual title. The team title has "Vacancy" written all over it.

2A Girls

     Nederland was dominant last fall. The Robinson sisters fared well in the state 1600 and 4 X 800 and so they appear ready to lead a potent Nederland team again this fall. Their main rival on the track, Paonia's Johanna Reed, figures to run for 3A Hotchkiss again in the fall, so Reed will presumably be out of the (2A) picture. It is said, though, that nature abhors a vacuum, and cross country is as close to nature as a sport gets. Think Birdie Hutton. It shouldn't be hard to think that far, either, because Birdie Hutton lives just down the hill from Nederland. While Shining Mountain Waldorf doesn't appear at the moment to be mounting a serious threat for the team title (things like this can change, however), Hutton could definitely figure in the individual race. Nor should we overlook Kelsey Corbin from Mancos. Corbin's 12:45 3200 time at state is a bit deceptive as she spent most of the spring wearing shin guards for Montezuma-Cortez but still qualified for the state track meet once her soccer season came to a halt. If Kenzie O'Brien of Dayspring Christian finds someone to run cross country for in the fall, she could earn some notice as well. In her case, however, it's likely that--should she find a school to run for this fall--she would be competing for a 3A or 4A program.