Florence's Kylie Simshauser is ready for a big season.
Graduation hit the girl's 3A landscape big time, but what that means is that there's a massive open door for some new talent to emerge.
Fortunately, 3A is actually quite deep when it comes to talent...
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.
A year ago Kylie Simshauser finished sixth and within a sea of burgundy and blue singlets at the state championships. The incoming junior ran 19:03 that day, which was a personal best.
Who runs a PR on one of the more difficult courses in the state?
She raced rather sparingly last fall, and it clearly worked. Of the six times she competed, she broke 19:45 every time. Additionally, she never placed worse than sixth - which is where she finished at State.
She took the consistency she established on the cross country courses onward to the track this past spring.
Simshauser ran PRs of 2:24 in the 800, 5:11 in the 1,600, and 11:21 in the 3,200. She endured a challenging triple at the state meet, finishing 15th in the 800, seventh in the 1,600, and fourth in the 3,200.
The longer the distance the better she gets. This bodes well for the 2019 cross country season...
Sierra Bower made some serious gains on the track last spring. But before we get to that...
A year ago Bower finished 24th at the state cross country championships. She ran 20:12 that day, which at the time was just off her 20:03 PR.
She ran between 20:30 and 20:00 five of seven times last fall, though it was her seventh race that we saw the tip of the ice burg, as she dropped that once solid PR way, way down to 18:31 at Nike Cross Regionals.
Fast-forward over the winter months, and onto the track. The Sierra Bower of the previous cross country season was a distant memory, because she went into beast mode last spring.
Bower ran massive, massive, PRS of 5:12 in the 1,600, and a 10:54 in the 3,200 at lower elevations. (By comparison, her previous PRs in those distances were 5:42 and 12:08.) She finished eighth at State in the 1,600, and second in the 3,200 by a few inches - running 10:58 in Colorado.
Add her 39:01 Bolder Boulder 10k time (2x19:30 5ks), and it's clear that Bower is going to be a force on the cross country courses this fall.
A year go Kennedy McDonald was the top freshman at State, finishing seventh in 19:10. She's the No. 2 returner this year.
At the time, her 19:10 at State was a big time PR, beating her previous best by over 30 seconds. She cracked 20 just twice before State, but clearly, she's got more in the tank. A few weeks after State she dropped another 40+ seconds off her best, running 18:28 at Nike Cross Regionals.
While her exploits on the cross country courses last fall, particularly the final weeks of the season, were more than enough to gain some attention, she solidified her spot with a stellar track season.
Last spring she ran PRs of 5:15 in the 1,600, and 11:25 in the 3,200. Additionally, she finished ninth in the 1,600 at State, and fifth in the 3,200.
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