Owen Nolan could be the next star in 3A.
Scanning the results in 3A and one thing is clear: there's a ton of young talent just waiting to step out of the shadows. And what's additionally exciting about that fact is that the fastest runners in 3A are not only among the best in all-classifications in Colorado, but also across the country.
The following is a subjective look at a few individuals and teams that I'll currently dub Dark Horses, at least in terms of pre-season.
Editor's Note: The following outlook is based entirely on stats from the 2018 cross country season, and the 2019 outdoor track season. It's likely there are other Dark Horses out there that will rise this fall. Unfortunately my powers do not include the ability to foresee what happens on that quiet trails over the summer.
SkyView Academy's Owen Nolan came out of the gates swinging, that's for sure.
Nolan was the fastest freshmen in 3A last year, and the fastest among freshmen and sophomores. At the state meet - both cross country and track - he competed in a sea of upperclassmen with poise.
A year ago he finished sixth at the State Cross country Championships, running 16:36. A few weeks later he nearly cracked 16 at lower elevations, running 16:02 at Nike Cross Regionals.
What makes Nolan additionally someone to keep an eye on is his consistency - he broke 17 seven of nine times last year. The only two times he didn't break 17 were in his first two outings.
He proved his mettle on the track as well.
Last spring he once again topped his class, and underclassmen, leading the charge with personal bests of 4:32 in the 1,600 and 9:47 in the 3,200. He finished seventh at State in the 1,600, and fifth in the 3,200.
Add that he PRd in the 3,200 every time he stepped on the track, and he cracked 4:40 in the 1,600 five of seven times.
In his first year as a high schooler, Nolan already appears to be the real deal.
A year ago Frontier Academy's Jaden Davis saved his best performance for last - finishing fifth at the State in 16:36. The time was a season best for Davis, who dipped under 17 minutes three times.
Davis finished in the top 15 of every Colorado race he competed in last fall, and he's the No. 3 returner in the state behind the likes of Mason Norman and William Ledden.
He backed that up with a solid spring on the track, running PRs of 4:33 in the 1,600, and 9:55 in the 3,200. He went to tally two eighth place finishes at the state meet, in the 1,600 and the 3,200.
Gunnison's Alex Baca has very quietly surged through the packs of the state and looks in position to take that next step.
A year ago he finished 14th at the state meet in 16:56 as a sophomore. At the time, that was a PR. A few weeks later he upped the ante, running 16:16 at Nike Cross Regionals.
Additionally, he finished in the top 14 of every cross country meet he competed in last fall.
He's the No. 8 returner in the state this year, but what really sheds some light on his potential to rise is his track season.
Last spring he ran PRs of 4:36 in the 1,600, and 10:00 in the 3,200. He finished 13th in the 1,600 at State, and ninth in the 3,200.
Add the fact that his 1,600 PR was 15 seconds faster than his freshman best, and his 3,200 PR was nearly 30 seconds faster - clearly he's on the rise.
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