Buena Vista heads to Colorado Springs as the favorite to claim the team title - they've run themselves into a new realm this season.
Leading this squad is sophomore Zaila Smith, who is running her first cross country season. The rookie tag hasn't shown one bit, however - she's run 18:52 so far this season. But we'll come back to her...
Smith is flanked by Mallory Salazar, who finished sixth at State a year ago. Salazar has run 19:47 so far this season. Collectively, this is the best 1-2 punch in the state.
Add that Buena Vista has the potential to put three runners in front of everyone's two, and/or four (even five) runners in front of everyone's three.
Molly McMurry has run 20:41 so far this season, and Kadance Kelso has run 21:39. Their No. 5 - Alexis Santopietro has run 21:40. Having this sort of pack makes them extremely difficult to beat.
Buena Vista's most notable victory came in the 2A race at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, where they trounced the competition by tallying 20 points. More recently they won the 2A Region 3 title with a perfect 10 points - they swept the first five positions.
While Buena Vista appears to be in the driver's seat in the team race, the question shifts to be who could A) challenge them, or 2) finish second.
On paper, that looks like Heritage Christian.
When Buena Vista and Heritage Christian met the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede Heritage Christian finished third behind Buena Vista and Wray.
But they've clearly made progress since then.
Freshman Ainsley Stanton leads Heritage Christian. She's run 19:27 so far this season. Sophia Schuemann has been a solid No. 2 runner for them this season - she's run 20:35. Freshman Juliana Lundy has run 21:32 so far. Heritage Christian has four who have run 22:18 or faster.
Most recently Heritage Christian finished second at the 2A Region 1 Championships to Lake County, who could be a real Dark Horse this weekend.
If history has told us anything, it's that you can never count out Lyons.
They've got the second-best 1-2 punch with defending state champ Quin Gregg, and Hannah Thomas. Gregg has run 19:15 so far this season, while Thomas has run 20:15. They nearly have all scoring four under 23 minutes.
Most recently Lyons took the final qualifying spot at the 2A Region 1 Championships, finishing fourth behind Lake County, Heritage Christian, and Yuma.
As mentioned earlier, Buena Vista's Zaila Smith is competing in her first cross country season. You wouldn't think that given her season record.
Smith has marched through the season unbeaten - she's has tallied six consecutive victories.
Recently she ran a personal best of 18:52 at the 2A Region 3 Championships. Additionally, she's broken 20 four times this season, and 19 once.
Smith's most notable victory came at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, where she beat Peyton's Eowyn Dalbec by nine-seconds.
These two will likely make the individual race this Saturday.
Dalbec enters the State meet as the underdog here, though not by much.
A year ago she was 30th at the State meet, but she's clearly made serious progress since.
The Peyton junior owns the fastest time in the state - an 18:39 clocking from the Wiggins Invitational. She's broken 20 three times, and has won four of six races.
Her only losses came to Smith, and in the "Big School" division at the Peyton XC Invitational, where she finished 13th.
Most recently, she won the 2A Region 2 title.
And as mentioned earlier, you can never count out anyone coached by Mark Roberts at Lyons.
Quin Gregg returns to Colorado Springs in a unique position for a defending state champ - an underdog.
As a freshman she finished second at State, last year she won the title.
The Lyons junior hasn't run on any burner courses this fall, which may explain why she's flown slightly under the radar in terms of time. Gregg owns a season-best of 19:15 - the lone sub-20 clocking of her season.
She's won four of six races, with her most notable victory being the Mile High League title. Most recently she finished fifth at the 2A Region 1 Championships.
Next Page: Heritage Christian Seeks A Repeat, Tight Boy's Race On Tap