Get used to the faces you see at the front of this pack. They'll be causing trouble for other teams all season long. Photo by Jim Lewis.
One weekend is in the books and several things are already clear.
Perhaps most clear of all: If you thought last year was an exceptional year for girls teams in Colorado, wait until you see what happens this year. Highlands Ranch, Fort Collins, and Boulder have each made it abundantly clear that they figure to be in the mix.
Of the three, Fort Collins probably enjoyed the best opening weekend. Even without top runner Rachel Viger, the Lambkins went into Boulder and came out with the title at Boulder's own invitational. Even more impressive? They overcame a convincing 1-2 finish by Boulder's Kelsey Lakowske (18:28) and Sam Lewis and overcame a 20-second disadvantage on the average time per scoring runner. Fort Collins put their fifth runner in one place behind Boulder's third. Game over. Boulder will be back, however.
On Saturday, Highlands Ranch impressed a whole lot of people in Fort Collins's backyard. Eleanor Fulton (18:32), McLane Ritzel, and Kristen Kientz (she's back!!) went 1-2-3 at the Poudre School District Pre-Sate meet. Freshman Kristi Oslund finished ninth. If Highlands Ranch can solidy their #5 position, the Falcons just might prove to be untouchable.
Also on Saturday, the Chaparral teams went to Albuquerque for the UNM Invite. The boys ran into the buzzsaw that is NM boys cross country--Albuquerque Academy, Los Alamos, Cibola, and all those teams. They came out mostly unscathed but did fall to AA. The girls, on the other hand, took on New Mexico's best and came away with the big trophy. It will be interesting to see Chaparral matching up against in-state foes in coming weeks.
Among 4A girls, Evergreen and Greeley Central made the most convincing statements on opening weekend. Mullen looks to be in the hunt as well. Down at the Joe Vigil Invitational, Alamosa pounded on the field with two DeSouchets tied behind their back. Nikki DeSouchet is the only one of the sisters appearing in the results.
3A girls was mostly quiet this weekend. TCA didn't run their top varsity team. Salida ran at Arapahoe, but split their runners between races and so left without a team score. Estes Park justified their #3 ranking by putting the hurt on the field at Pre-State. Nederland comes out of opening weekend looking like the dominant power in 2A once again, although last year's #3 runner, Rebecca Hermann, was not in the lineup. You had to go across the state line to find them, but the Mancos girls acquitted themselves nicely at the Aztec (NM) Invitational. Think slowish course when you look at the times from Aztec.
Add Kara Slavoski of St. Mary's and Clare Gallagher of Cherry Creek to the list of conspicuous absences for the weekend.
For the boys, Cherry Creek won round 1 over Regis Jesuit at Pre-State. Figure there are a few more rounds to go in this matchup, however. Walter Schafer (15:31) put a big gap on everybody up in Fort Collins and looks to be the man to beat in 5A boys.
Teamwise in 5A, Smoky Hill looks to be very strong up front, but still searching for more depth. Monarch and Boulder butted heads in a telling way at Pat Patten; it will be intriguing to watch how these two teams fare when they square off against some of the traditional powers in 5A. Both Monarch and Boulder, however, found a place on my personal watch list for the time being. Despite running twice this weekend, Cherokee Trail still pulled off an impressive third at Pre-State after taking the field at Arapahoe.
Cheyenne Mountain and Moffat County were surprise kings of the mountain in 4A boys over the weekend. Greeley West, the preseason favorite, took third to these two programs at Pre-State. Other programs were well back in the field. Shawn Dubbs put better than a minute on the rest of the field at the Joe Vigil Invitational.
3A boys was full of interesting and surprising results this weekend. TCA's top six mostly took the weekend off from racing, and the Lyons team took the weekend off altogether. Ditto (maybe?) Faith Christian. Colorado Academy was sizzling through three-deep, but needs a fourth. Is the fourth waiting in the wings? We shall see. In any case, in the absence of Colorado Academy's fourth, Bayfield won the Pre-State title and Eaton was a very surprising second. Apparently, the Reds are for real. Salida's boys didn't have an especially strong showing at Arapahoe.
In 2A boys, the graduation of Victor Montoya and Santino Apodaca doesn't appear to have slowed down the Rocky Ford steamroller. Rocky Ford ran well twice over the weekend. It would appear, however, that Alexander Dawson may be in position to offer the Meloneers a bit of a challenge.
This article will be updated as more information on the weekend becomes available.