The 5A State Preview: Titans Set To Clash On The Course


We've got the best of the best set to toe the line together this Saturday. And when I write "best of the best" I literally mean that in reference to the country - not just all classifications in Colorado. 

In this girl's 5A team race are five squads that are ranked in the top-20 nationally

Cherry Creek is currently ranked No. 4 in the country, Valor Christian is ranked No. 11, Arapahoe is ranked No. 12, Mountain Vista is ranked No. 17, and Cherokee Trail is ranked No. 20.

On paper, Valor looks like the team to beat. 

They've got four potential No. 1 runners with Jocelyn MillicanTaylor WhitfieldLanie Szuch, and Brooke Wilson. With this squad, it really depends on the day, because each girl has led at some point - that's what makes them insanely dangerous. All four have top-10 potential in the individual race - Wilson was third at last year's state championships while Whitfield was fifth. 

Add that all four have broken 18:20, and that they have six who have run 18:42 or faster.

Valor has not raced against Cherry Creek or Arapahoe this season, though they did down a stellar US No. 8 Niwot squad at the Beet Juice Invitational last month.

Cherry Creek and Arapahoe have gone head-to-head several times this season, with Cherry Creek coming out on top. 

A year ago they finished second at State, and the burn appears to still be stinging, because they've been consistent on the course this season when they've raced at full-strength. 

Last week Cherry Creek beat Arapahoe for the 5A Region 1 title - by four points. 

Defending state champ Riley Stewart leads Cherry Creek, who will be aided big-time by her potential one-point. Addison Price and Addison Laughlin are a solid 2-3 - both have cracked 19 minutes so far this season. A year ago Price was eighth at the state cross country championships. 

But if last year told us anything, it's that you cannot count out Arapahoe...

If anything, they're in the best spot of all - hunting. 

A year ago they entered the state meet as a big-time Dark Horse. They finished second at regionals - 11 points behind Cherry Creek. 

A week later they turned the tables and stunned 5A by claiming the state title. 

What does this mean? 

They know how to step up when it matters most. 

While Cherry Creek swept their conference and region rival all season, the Arapahoe girls still appear to be as threatening as ever. 

Ava Mitchell has led the squad most of the season, though Ava Escorcia led them at last week's region meet where they went 4-5-6-7. Emily Lamontagne, Mitchell, and Jordan Stead give them a tight pack. 

A year ago Escorcia and Mitchell finished sixth and seventh at the state championships. 

We can't exactly apply the "Dark Horse" tag to the defending state champs this year - this year it'll go to Mountain Vista, who claimed the 5A Region 3 title over Valor (who ran without Szuch, and Suvina Heidt - two of their top-five runners.)

Mountain Vista is a squad that is familiar with big races and big performances, so they can never fully be left out of the conversation. 

Shayda Zarrin has led this squad all season, and Nina St John and Shantell Hafner appear to be hitting their stride right in time - they finished 4-5-6 at last week's region championships. 

So, what of the individual race?


The defending state champ enters the 2020 state meet in a familiar spot: the favorite. 

Riley Stewart, or anyone else, hasn't given us any reason to think there's a script-change at all heading back to Colorado Springs this week - Stewart hasn't lost to a Colorado runner over the past two years.

She's won three of four races this season. Her won loss was to US No. 3 Sydney Thorvaldson at the Heritage Distance Classic. Stewart ran a state-leading 17:06 that day. She's run under 18 minutes every race this season, and under 17:30 three of four times.

Cameron McConnell is the only runner so far to come within half-a-minute of Stewart. 

McConnell, who finished second to Stewart at last year's state championships, has finished second to her conference and region rival twice this season, coming as close as 27 seconds at last week's region championships. 

McConnell has run 17:35 this season, and broken 18 three times.

While Stewart is the defending state champ, and McConnell is the defending runner-up, Emma Stutzman could challenge this hierarchy.

Referencing the previous line about McConnell being the only runner within half-a-minute of Stewart, Stuzman finished 31-seconds back at the Heritage Distance Classic, running 17:37. She's won four of five races - her only loss was to Thorvaldson and Stewart at the Heritage Distance Classic.  

While these three stick out the most, on any given day you could easily add Wilson and Whitfield from Valor, or Mitchell and Escorcia from Arapahoe.

In reality, there are a ton of girls who could crack the top-10, and even the top-five...

Next Page: Wolfe, Mountain Vista Head To State As Heavy Favorites