Josh Snyder and Andres Cura are two freshmen who figure to have immediate impacts on their high school teams this fall.
The cycle of high school is such that each athlete gets four years to make his or her mark. An athlete comes in as a freshman and has four seasons. For more, it takes two or three seasons to crack the varsity roster.
In this article, however, we take a look at some of the top incoming freshmen this fall and what impacts they figure to make on their various teams. These are the guys who could conceivably be four-year impact runners.
Part of the problem of doing an article like this, though, is that we don't have past results for anything near all of this year's incoming freshman class. We have to accept that we're simply going to miss some of the best. Another problem is that we don't always know where a particular athlete is headed for high school. In many cases, that word is out. In other cases, it is not.
So, please accept that this article is partial. We can only talk about athletes who have appeared on the radar screen. Chances for others will come later on.
There are two sets of meet results that provide us with most of the hard information we have to work with--the Middle School State Championships (including the Northern Colorado Middle School Championships) and the Colorado USATF Junior Olympic Championships.
The former race(s) boasted a 3500 meter distance. The latter had a 4000 meter distance. While not 5000 meters, both races are long enough to give us a decent read on what's coming our way this fall. In any case, it's tough to find a lot of 5000 meter data for rising freshmen.
Perhaps it's best to take this classification by classification.
Two traditional powers in the 2A ranks are Ouray and Rocky Ford. Both figure to get a boost from their incoming freshman classes this fall. And, with 2A going to scoring four this fall, those boosts come just in time.
Some other schools who should be reaping benefits from incoming freshmen include Golden View Classical (Nate Kopp and Paul Fox), Sargent (Westen Burkhart), Centauri (Richardson Tailleur), Lyons (Sage Wynja), Mancos (Connor Lee), and Wiggins (Scott Kennedy, Caden Green).
Will there be more impact freshmen emerging on the scene? Of course there will. It's just hard to pin down where they might be coming from right now. For the time being, though, Rocky Ford and Ouray look like the biggest winners in the freshman team sweepstakes. Sage Wynja and Josh Snyder stake claims as the top individuals we know about so far.
At least partly because 3A feeder schools tend to be a bit better represented at the middle school state meet than 2A, we have a longer list of names here. And, the names tend to belong to some already-established top cross country programs.
University's Blaine Pope won the state championship last fall in the Red Division race. If he stays the course and goes to high school at University, he figures prominently in rebuilding a team ripped apart by graduation.
Jefferson Academy figures to pick up a legitimate competitor in Sean Beasley. Berthoud figures to welcome Tate Bothun to the fold. SkyView Academy, rocked by a couple of outgoing transfers, looks to Braeden Nelson-Archer to help fill some gaping holes.
Severance, the new kid on the 3A block, looks to bolster its roster with incoming freshman Caden Schweer. Schweer finished sixth in the Blue race at middle school state last year. In case you were wondering, that is legit.
The Classical Academy, looking to take the course this fall for the first time in eight years without a Norman on the roster, brings in the core of a team that finished fourth at middle school state last year in the Blue Division. The most obvious impact freshmen in this group are Matthew Edwards and David Ahnfeldt, but there could be a few more freshmen seeing some varsity action this fall as well. Stay tuned.
Rylan Salsberry enters at Lutheran High School. Opportunity should come early for Salsberry as the Lions just graduated a large share of their roster.
To be honest, I don't know a lot about who all might be headed to Niwot. But, I'm pretty sure there will be some arrivals. Success has a way of drawing folks in. Whether or not any freshman boys can break the varsity roster at Niwot remains to be seen, however. It's a tall, tall order.
On the other hand, Cheyenne Mountain has a verified flock of freshmen coming in. Again, it's no easy task to crack the varsity roster at Cheyenne Mountain, but it won't be long before we're hearing names like Raymie Smith, Nathan Smith, Lucas Klein, Noah Soyk, and Cadence Johnson. That crowd won a middle school state championship last fall and has to be itching to see what they can do at the high school level this fall. For the most part, though, this group figures to break in as a very good JV team until some of the considerable talent ahead of them graduates and makes room.
Lucas Bossinger ran very well at state last fall under the colors of Monument Academy. Is this the year MA adds high school? Or, does Bossinger end up at Palmer Ridge or Lewis-Palmer? So many questions... UPDATE: Bossinger will be headed to Palmer Ridge.
And, then we have the annual problem of sorting out where the Loveland middle school graduates end up. Will it be Loveland (5A), Thompson Valley (4A), Mountain View (4A), or someplace else? Suffice it to say that both Bill Reed and Walt Clark had solid teams last fall. In terms of incoming freshmen, though, the upper hand went to Bill Reed. We'll have to wait and see where guys like Brady Kennison end up.
Quinn Brown could be a sleeper coming in at Montrose High School. It's been a while since the Indians had really good cross country depth and Brown could be a big step in that direction this fall. A similar story could be told about Benny Swanson at Glenwood Springs.
Of course there are more. There are at least three boys coming up in Pueblo who harbor strong shots at breaking into varsity rosters this fall--Andres Cura, Christobal Beltran, and Marco Rios. I just don't happen to know yet what schools these young men are aiming toward.
Flynn Halsor is another who bears watching, he'll be headed to Golden in the fall.
There are plenty of upcoming freshmen in the greater Denver and Colorado Springs areas who have been successfully flying under the radar to this point. That's because larger districts largely make it very difficult to get middle school results. There are some talents out of the Catholic School Athletic League in the Denver area that will distribute across a broad range of schools this fall.
The same problem that plagues 4A analysis of incoming freshmen plagues 5A analysis as well, only worse.
There's a whole lot of talent here whose race times have never seen the light of day. We could argue about whether that's a good thing or not, but that's not the point. The point is there will be a few freshman surprises this fall in the 5A ranks. Not many 5A freshmen make varsity rosters, but those who do are the real deal.
So, I'll limit myself here to a discussion of the ones I do have some decent idea about. The others will become well enough known as the season develops.
Possibly the first to earn some statewide attention will be Chaparral freshman Brennan Draper. Draper has already run 4:36 and change for the mile and 9:42 and change for the 3200. He was fourth in the 13-14 division (4000 meters) at the USATF National Junior Olympics. Parker Panters coach Ross Cargo describes Draper as some who "can go under 16 minutes." That will get you attention in a hurry. Especially so as a freshman.
Tanner Brown is another high-potential freshman who figures to join Draper with the Wolverines.
It's always a little dicey determining where the annual crop of Fort Collins area incoming freshmen will parcel out to schools, but Poudre, Fossil Ridge, Ft. Collins, and Rocky Mountain figure to parcel out the pieces of runners like Alistair Clark, Leo Cole, Daelan Gonzales, Seth Fenwick, Paul Mick, and more--somehow. It remains to be seen what different directions these young men go.
In a similar vein, there's Morgan McCuen and Holden Krizek coming up in the Boulder area. Where they end up for high school is something I can't tell you yet, but they could be seen in varsity races this fall. There's Owen McCandless, Aidan Logan, and Bobby Howey coming up in Denver.
Kai Luna fits under all the same categories here as those mentioned in the last two paragraphs and just might be the top freshman prospect out of Denver.
Dakota Ridge and Mountain Vista figure to keep their pipelines open via Summit Ridge and Mountain Ridge Middle Schools, respectively. On paper, Dakota Ridge looks to be getting the better feed this year, but the Summit Ridge program just might be a bit more of a hefty middle school program--meaning there might be some evening out when things get to high school.
In any case, guys making the jump from Summit Ridge this year include Silas Thompson, Christian Carter, Alex Arnold, and Noah O'Dougherty. It's a pretty good crew, good enough to have finished second at middle school state last year.
On the radar screen as coming up from Mountain Ridge is Alex Fowler.
Lucian Kasperek is a notable heading to Cherry Creek, but that may be a very tough roster to crack this fall, at least as far as varsity goes.
That more or less exhausts the list of guys I have on my radar screen for now. It's a start, but it's nothing like a complete picture yet.