The Dark Horse: Girls 4A Pre-Season

Sophia Connerton-Nevin (Glenwood Springs)

Sopia Connnerton-Nevin is one of the fastest returning runners in 4A. And she's is one of two runners from Glenwood Springs that could really make a splash this fall. 

The unique thing with Connerton-Nevin is that her performance at State last year doesn't really paint the entire picture. 

When you look at her season, it's clear that she could be a real threat on the course this fall. 

She finished in the top-five seven of eight races in Colorado last fall. And three of those finishes were runner-ups. 

Connerton-Nevin made her high school debut with a runner-up finish at the Basalt Longhorn Invitational, running 19:38. 

Two weeks later she dropped well over a minute off her personal best, running 18:18 to finish second to her teammate Ella Johnson in the D2 girls race at Liberty Bell.

Much of the season played out in this way - Connerton-Nevin and Johnson finishing near each other. 

Though, her best performance came at the 4A Region 1 cross country championships, where she joined a very short list of Sub-18 Colorado runners. 

Connerton-Nevin finish third in 17:51, nine seconds behind Grace Johnson, 22 behind Samantha Blair, four seconds in front of Joslin Blair, and eight seconds in front of her teammate, Johnson. 

Nine days later Connerton-Nevin capped her first high school season with a slight off-day at the State championships, finishing 16th, running 19:19. 

Her teammate, Johnson, finished fifth in 18:37. Samantha Blair finished second in 18:15, Joslin Blair finished third in 18:27, and Grace Johnson finished ninth in 18:49. 

Hope Stark (Cheyenne Mountain)

Hope Stark has gradually been making gains over the first two years of high school, it only seems inevitable that she'll have a breakthrough season. 

Last year she finished in the top-four four-out-five races in the state of Colorado.

Stark opened her 2019 season with a third place finish in the 4A at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede. She ran 19:25 that day on the state meet course.

Two weeks later she chopped over 40 seconds off her Colorado personal best, pushing Elizabeth Schweiker to the line of the D1 race at Liberty Bell. Stark ran 18:09 that day.

She picked up a runner-up finish to Ella Chura at the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference Championships a month later, running 19:17. A week earlier Chura dropped a 17:52 PR at the Desert Twilight in Arizona.

The week before State Stark finished fourth at 4A Region 5 region championships, 46 seconds behind race winner Madeleine Burns

A week later, however, she made serious gains. 

At the 2019 state championships Stark finished seventh, running 18:46 - 13 seconds behind Burns, and 41 seconds faster than her time on this course in late August.

Elliot Pribramksy (Battle Mountain) 

When scanning over Elliot Pribramsky's 2019 cross country season, it appears that she was flying well under the radar - in terms of time. 

But the reality is if you look deeper into who she competed against, and where, it's clear that she very gradually revved up her engine onwards into the State meet. 

Pribramsky opened up her season with a 20:25, ninth place finish in the 4A race at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede. That day she was a minute behind Hope Stark, and 1:33 behind race winner Grace Johnson

One of her more revealing races came several weeks later at the St. Vrain Invitational, where she finished third, 17 seconds behind race winner Johnson. Pribramsky ran 19:24 that day.

While Johnson did stretch her "lead" over Pribramsky a week later at the Warrior Lincoln Park Classic (Johnson won in 18:02, Pribramsky finished sixth in 19:09), Pribramsky's St. Vrain performance showed her strength over more-difficult courses. 

Three weeks later Pribramsky finished eighth at the 4A Region 1 championships on a real burner of a course. She ran 18:11 - a Colorado PR. Samantha Blair won the race in 17:29, while Johnson was second in 17:42.

A week later Pribramsky showed off her strength over the hills at Penrose, finishing ninth at State in 18:54 - five seconds behind Johnson, and eight seconds behind Stark.

Ella Johnson (Glenwood Springs)

Glenwood Springs has two stellar runners to keep an eye on. In addition to Sopia Connnerton-Nevin, there's Ella Johnson. 

A year ago she proved that when she was hitting her stride, she could hang with the best.

She opened her season the way everyone wishes to - with a victory. Johnson won the D2 race at Liberty Bell in 18:15 - four seconds ahead of her teammate, Connnerton-Nevin.

She backed that up with a 19:00, fourth-place finish at the Eagle Valley XC Invitational. The race was won by eventual 3A state champ Sierra Bower, who ran 18:07. Samantha Blair and Joslin Blair, both running 18:31.

She picked up win No. 2 of her season at the Rifle Cross Country Invitational three weeks before State, before going on to finish fifth at the 4A Region 1 Championships. She ran a 17:58 PR, finishing 29 seconds behind race winner Samantha Blair, and 16 seconds behind runner-up Grace Johnson. 

Just over a week later she toed the line at the State Championships, and put up her most impressive result to date. 

Ella Johnson finished fifth in a loaded field, running 18:37. The time was 22 seconds behind runner-up Samantha Blair, and 12 ahead of Grace Johnson. 

Bonus: Amelia Philofsky (#322) and Madison Shults (#323) (Niwot)

Niwot has a number of weapons for the course this fall, and perhaps two of their most dangerous are incoming junior Amelia Philosky, and incoming sophomore Madison Shults.

A year ago Philosky was Niwot's No. 2 runner at the State meet, finishing sixth, while Shults capped her first high school cross country season with a 10th place finish. 

Philosky owns a 17:57 PR from Desert Twilight, and finished in the top-six four out of five times in Colorado last fall. 

She opened her season with an 18:43, 27th place finish at Liberty Bell, before going on to finish sixth at St. Vrain two weeks later.

Philosky was Niwot's fifth runner in their historic 15-point 4A Region 4 team victory. Just over a week later she was their second runner at State, finishing sixth.

Shults definitely revved up into the season. She's perhaps one of the few runners who can claim to have run faster at the state meet course at Penrose than Liberty Bell. 

She opened her season with a 19:33 at Liberty Bell, before making a big leap at St. Vrain two weeks later, where ran 19:41 and finished eighth overall.

A week later she ran a season PR of 18:17 Desert Twilight.

And she wasn't done.

Shults finished third for Niwot at the 4A Region 3 championships, solidifying her spot on the course. Over a week later she finished 10th at State as the first freshman to cross the finish line.