Probably more than any other single individual, Coal Ridge's Peyton Garrison holds the key to the 3A state meet.
The last we heard from 3A Girls at state, TCA and Lutheran were taking it down to the final event at the 2019 state championship with Lutheran scoring just enough points in the 4x400 to edge out TCA for the team title, 109 to 106. Nobody else was in the same zip code. It was a stellar battle between the top two teams that swayed one way and the other all weekend long, but especially so on Saturday.
This year, however, it will be remarkable if either Lutheran or TCA figures as a major factor in the team standings (though TCA's chances are slightly less remote). A lot has changed in the last two years.
If you are looking for a favorite in the 3A Girls title race, bestow that honor on a different set of Titans than the ones from Colorado Springs. The Titans from Coal Ridge (in my mind, a decidedly better name for a high school than Silt) are your presumptive favorites.
Chasing them to the finish line, however, should be Liberty Common, Holy Family, and Berthoud. As one who no longer coaches 3A track and field but retains an enormous interest in the outcome, I detail the prospects for each of the top teams below.
Coal Ridge been crushing the 3A competition all year long. In fact, they've been crushing a lot of 4A and 5A competition along the way as well. While the Titans are not extremely deep in likely point-producing athletes, the ones they do have can put points on the board in a hurry.
Front and center for the Titans will be sprinter Peyton Garrison. Garrison will seek to defend her top seeds in the 100, 200, and 400. Presumably, she will use her one remaining event to take a leg of one of the Coal Ridge sprint relays. But, with the four-event limit, she can only appear in one of those relays. Presumably Garrison helped to qualify all four highly-ranked Coal Ridge sprint relays, so figure that the Titans bleed a few points from their seeds in sprint relays on account of that. That could end up being important by the time the state meet is complete.
Another prominent figure for Coal Ridge is distance runner Mikayla Cheney. Cheney is the #2 seed in the 800, the #3 seed in the 1600, and a scratch in the 3200. Presumably, that means she'll be running the 4x800, 4x400, or both. Of those three options, my hunch is the most likely scenario is just the 4x400 (which could be read as a hint that perhaps Garrison is pointed to that relay as well).
Phoebe Young will bring the #5 seed in the pole vault to the state meet. Raeanna Nelson brings the #9 seed in the 100 hurdles. Marin Simons owns the #2 seed in the high jump. Natalie Smythe holds down the #9 seed in the triple jump. Taylor Wiescamp checks in at #3 in the shot put and #5 in the discus.
Assuming the athletes perform according to seeds, that's the extent of the Coal Ridge scoring at state. It's a hefty bundle of points, but it's far from a lock.
The Titans could get scoring help if any of the following perform above their seeds--Lydia Karren in the 300 hurdles, Hartleigh Porter or Haven Prodzinski in the pole vault, Maddie Markovich in the shot put, and Addy Davis or Abigail Wittenberg in the discus.
Relays will likely make or break the Titans. The 4x800 doesn't project for points, but they're close enough that stealing a few points there is a real possibility. That would assume, however, that Cheney runs the 4x800. If Cheney sits out the 4x800, Coal Ridge is not likely to score in that event. If Cheney runs the 4x400 and 4x800, that puts her at four very taxing events for state. Be glad that the Coal Ridge coaching staff, and not you, is saddled with guiding that decision.
The #3 seed for the Coal Ridge 4x400 likely assumes both Garrison and Cheney run that event. If Garrison runs the 4x400, she's out of the sprint med, the 4x100, and the 4x200. More decisions for the Coal Ridge coaching staff. And every decision has consequences.
Liberty Common is right on Coal Ridge's heels as far as the state title is concerned, but Liberty Common brings most of the same concerns to the state meet as Coal Ridge.
Liberty Common's Peyton Garrison goes by the handle of Katie Wrona. Wrona is the #2 seed in the 100, the #3 seed in the 200, and tied for the #2 seed in the pole vault. Obviously, it's a huge plus for Liberty Common if Wrona can beat Garrison in the 100 or 200. Or win the pole vault. But, the bigger issue--at least for now--is which one of Liberty Common's highly ranked relays will feature Wrona? Like Garrison, Wrona will be limited to one relay.
Liberty Common comes in ranked #1 in the 4x100, #2 in the 4x200, #1 in the 4x400, and #1 in the sprint med. Something has to give here. She ran them all at one point or another during the season, but Wrona can't run them all at state.
Wrona, of course, isn't the only arrow in the Liberty Common quiver. Liberty Common has limited Gigi Jurgens' individual events to the triple jump. It seems likely to assume from that that Jurgens will appear on three relays. Logan Haugestuen is entered in both hurdle events (as she should be), leaving her room to appear on two relays. Lily Morrison is entered only in the 400, leaving her room for three relays. Conceivably, Morrison could load up with 400s (4x400, sprint med) and take a leg of the 4x800 for LC, but we could debate whether or not that's a survivable load. Andrea Walser is entered in both hurdle events, leaving her available for two relays. Miah Dannahower is also entered in the two hurdle events though is less likely than Walser to make finals. Thus, Dannahower may be called on for the relay duty.
In short, the Liberty Common state title bid appears to depend a lot on several girls going four events. Four events can carry a large price tag by Saturday. To the extent that LC can keep some of these girls to three events, it's likely to pay off for the Eagles.
The other big piece to the Liberty Common puzzle is distance runner Isabel Allori. LC pulled the plug on Allori's 800, leaving her as the #12 seed in the 1600 and #7 seed in the 3200. LC desperately needs all the points Allori can snare at state. With Allori running only two individual events, it's all but a certainty she will appear in the 4x800 where the Eagles are seeded fourth. Those points, too, are very important.
So, Liberty Common can probably spread their relay talent more effectively than Coal Ridge can, but we'll have to wait and see what kind of impacts the spreading exacts on both teams. On the other hand, Coal Ridge doesn't need the relay points quite as much as Liberty Common, because Coal Ridge has more likely means of scoring at the state meet.
For the Tigers, it comes down to relays, Lizzbeth Villalobos, and Skylar Hawk. Mostly Skylar Hawk. Hawk is a top seed in the 100, 200, 400, and 300 hurdles, which also means she isn't available for relays. At all. And that could mean that none of Holy Family's relays score at state. They're nicely seeded for relays, but I'm guessing at least four of those seeds owe a leg to Hawk's presence. Maybe five, but I'm not sure of that. I don't doubt that Hawk could run a nice 800 leg, but it's not a given that she has.
Villalobos is a quality sprinter. She's entered in the 100 and 200, and likely figures for a few points in both, but that also limits her relay contribution to two relays.
Evelyn Boyd is a dark horse to score points in the 3200. Holy Family needs the 4x800 to come up huge, but you probably want to temper your expectations for a #7 seeded team.
Frankly, Berthoud is much better positioned to cause trouble than Holy Family. Berthoud can score in a lot of different events. The key for the Spartans will be running above their seeds.
Paige Farnam is a freshman phenom and enters the state meet as the #1 seed in the long jump as her only individual event. That right there tells you that Berthoud is investing heavily in the relays. It looks like a great year to have that strategy since both Liberty Common and Coal Ridge have clearly compromised their relay potential some in the interest of scoring individual event points. Figure Farnam appears on the 4x400 and 4x800. She's too much of a talent not to appear somewhere else as well, but I wouldn't care to go out on that limb and guess where.
Also looming large in the Berthoud title prospects picture are distance runners Jaycee Williams and Olivia Krueger. Krueger enters as the #6 seed in the 800 and the #5 seed in the 1600. Williams has the #8 seed in the 400, the #3 seed in the 800, and the #8 seed in the 1600. The Spartans have, for better or worse, ditched the 3200. Given that Berthoud has the #1 seed in the 4x800 and needs those points, figure that both Williams and Krueger will run that event. If Krueger goes to a fourth event, it's almost certainly the 4x400.
Jumper Anndee Davidson will be the #6 seed in the long jump and the #4 seed in the triple jump. I'm guessing she handles a couple of relay legs before the meet is done as well. It's bonus time for the Spartans if Adelina Kirkpatrick can steal a few points in either the long jump or the triple jump, or both.
If Berthoud comes up big in the relays, they are very much in the hunt.
Any teams in this section should be considered very dark horses but not totally out of the hunt.
The Classical Academy has a long history of being trouble for other teams at the state meet. The Titans have some fairly obvious points headed their way in the pole vault between Anna Willis and Grace Mueller. The 4x800 looks like a lock for points. That, however, could be ALL the points the Titans score or it could be the launch pad.
Whatever title hopes the Titans have depend heavily on some athletes exceeding their seeds. The distance group is where that most likely begins. Any of Kennedy McDonald, Cassidy McDonald, and Sophia Valentine could move up into points. Their seasons have been trending in that direction.
The Titans don't figure to be losing any relay talent to individual events for sprinters (aside from a 200 for Allison Greening), so figure that the Titans are a likely bet to meet or exceed expectations in relays. They're not quite as loaded in most relays as Berthoud, but they do figure to be scoring. Other potential points could come from Maggie Huddleston in the 100 hurdles, Greta Corneliusen in the triple jump, and Jaida Miles in the pole vault.
It will take a perfect storm to see the Titans through, but they aren't out of the hunt yet.
Basalt is another team worth thinking about.
The Longhorns have the unenviable task of trying to win a state title (almost) solely on distance talent. That's Sierra Bower, Katelyn Maley, and Ava Lane. Figure all three are also running the 4x800. Basalt will likely score more points than any other team in distance events, but it will take some enormous exceeding of expectations to push them into a position where they can contend for a state title with those points. And, we'll also mention that 3A distance is probably deeper this year than it has ever been before (I have a theory on why that is, but maybe you have your own as well).
Should Basalt come up with big distance points, however, a lot of eyes could be turning to pole vaulter Katie Bohannan to see if she can jump a few places as well. Bohannan is also an entry in the high jump and long jump but she'll have to climb in either event to end up in the circle of points.
Basalt also has the #4 ranked sprint med, but I have my suspicions that the girl who ran the 400 for that ranking will be otherwise loaded up with distance events at state. We'll see. If I'm wrong about that, it will be a long way from the first thing I've been wrong about in a preview article.
If they gave state trophies just for throws, Lamar would be looking to take over a whole new city block to house their hardware. Lamar will be at it again this year, but the prospects of winning a state title solely on throws are worse than winning a state title mostly on distance.
Still, you have to be impressed. Lamar brings in the #1, #5, and #6 seeds in the shot put in Alexandria Tice, Jayme Wootten, and Lauren Reyes. The trio ranks 3-6-17 in the discus. Lamar will score well, but it's difficult to picture the scenario that puts them on top.
The last team we'll take a look at is Moffat County.
Sprinter Halle Hamilton is the big gun for the Bulldogs. She's entered in the 200 and 400 for state, leaving her open for two relays. Emaleigh Papierski doesn't give up much to Hamilton in the sprint department, and she's entered in the 200 and 400 as well. It's looking for all the world like the 200, 400, 4x200, and 4x400 will be the centerpiece of the Moffat County state meet plan.
High jumpers Alexis Jones and Emma Jones should be in line for points as well. Emma Jones will also run the 400 and could sneak into points there with a strong outing. Beyond that, long jumper Cayden King and a couple of relays are the only hopes to add to the pile of points.