Chiara Del Piccolo, Johanna Reed, and Brandi Krieg gave western slope cross country fans plenty to cheer about last fall. They're all back this fall. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Take a look at who’s coming back in 3A girls cross country this fall. Then compare that with the other classifications. It just may be that medaling will be tougher in 3A than in any other classification.
Of last year’s top ten, only Kassie Mazzocco has graduated. The rest reads like the batting order for the 1927 New York Yankees.
Senior Kaitlin Hanenburg of The Classical Academy has two consecutive state titles to defend, and nothing about that will be easy. Breathing down her back are Middle Park junior Sam Berggren (who took Hanenburg to the limit in last year’s state race), St. Mary’s senior Kara Slavoski (who took Hanenburg to the limit in the 1600 at the state track meet), and Hanenburg’s own teammate, sophomore Shelby Stableford.
The possibility of seeing four sub-18 runners in 3A is frighteningly real.
And behind them?
The rest of the batting order is Emily LaValley of The Classical Academy, Melissa Roberts of Lyons, Chiara Del Piccolo of Basalt, Johanna Reed of Hotchkiss, and Brandi Krieg of Grand Valley. Each finished the state course last year in under 19:20.
What else do these nine young ladies have in common? They each enjoyed great track seasons. Apparently, the train never slows down and never stops.
And, imagine what it will be like if there’s a freshman phenom or two hiding in the wings.
Team-wise, The Classical Academy returns four of their six state runners from last year, including their top three. TCA should have a strong entry again this year. But the Titans aren’t the only team with a well-stocked arsenal.
Last year’s runner-up, Salida, returns the franchise. Like the Salida boys’ team, the girls have been riding a crest of steady improvement under Coach Kenny Wilcox. Senior Lauren Policky and sophomore Kaiti Davis leave little doubt that Salida will be in contention again this year. Anyone looking to overhaul the Spartans had better have a pretty fast pony to ride.
Right behind Salida last year were Peak to Peak and Estes Park. Peak to Peak lost two scoring runners and will need to find a couple pair of legs to replace them. Estes Park, however, lost only one to graduation and looks to be aiming at improving on their finish from last year. Junior Kim Hansen gives the Bobcats plenty of strength at the front end of the lineup.
And, it doesn’t end there. Stacked behind Peak to Peak and Estes Park were Pagosa Springs, Discovery Canyon, and Brush.
Anyone who has followed 3A girls cross country over the last decade knows that Pagosa Springs always has a contender. They've been the state runner-up three times in that ten-year span. This year should bring yet another contender. Graduated is team front runner Jacie Harms, but the Pirates find a way each year. Great coaching has a way of producing that kind of result. Look for senior Julia Adams to take over the team leadership.
Discovery Canyon is still a new school on its way to becoming 4A. But, for this year, they remain a 3A school without a senior class. The absence of a senior class won’t matter much for the girls. Expect sophomore Allie Morgan and junior Janae Johnson to keep the Thunder in contention all season long.
Brush loses one from last year but retains the core of its state lineup. Sarah Goss and Victoria Milano both ran under 20:00, and will be relied upon to lead the charge for the Beetdiggers once again this fall.
And, in case anyone has overlooked St. Mary's, they are one sub-21 runner away from creating headaches for a whole bunch of people. Should that one runner enroll this fall or develop from among girls already on the team....
Yes, once again, it’s crowded at the top in 3A girls cross country.