Answers and More Questions from State Cross Country (updated)

Scott Fauble of Wheat Ridge finished an unbeaten season with a remarkable run to the 4A Boys title. Photo by Paul Jaeger.


First off, credit to where credit is due:


Probably no teams in the state answered more questions yesterday than the Alamosa girls and the Salida boys. Both teams came up big when the situation demanded it. Both teams went home proud owners of a shiny new first-place trophy.


For Alamosa, it was a case of getting five runners to produce times and places that would enable them to bring home the state victory. Those five times and places came from Nikki DeSouchet, Lauren Martin, Jenny DeSouchet, Shelby Rushing, and freshman Karlee Smith.


Nikki DeSouchet. Photo by Paul Jaeger.


For Salida, it was largely a case of a brilliant run by senior Drew Johnson, who defied all prognostications to finish 10th in 17:00. With that finish, Salida had enough margin to withstand a substantial comeback from The Classical Academy at the #4 scoring position.


Drew Johnson. Photo by Alan Versaw.


Other teams and individuals with answers today included: Scott Fauble (15:24) with the day's best time for boys by nearly 20 seconds, and Kelsey Lakowske (17:28) with the day's best time for girls by nearly 50 seconds. Ryan Poland produced the second-best boys time of the day by answering the challenge that Basalt's Connor Roper threw out to the field with a blistering first mile. Brush's Amos Bowen never really put himself into a position to contend for the title.


The Classical Academy girls had more answers than there were questions in the 3A girls race, finishing 1-2-3-9-10-13. Fort Collins had enough answers to turn back Boulder, Pine Creek, and Highlands Ranch to win in 5A girls. Nederland, though not as dominant as last year, still had enough answers to win the team title and overcome a dominating run by Erin Kelly of Crested Butte for the individual title.


Greeley West, Regis Jesuit, and Rocky Ford each had enough answers to win team titles. Regis Jesuit readily quelled all resistance from a strong 5A field, while Greeley West (4A) and Rocky Ford (2A) had to put down strong resistance to win their state titles. For Rocky Ford, it was a third consecutive state title for the boys, something that hasn't been done since D`Evelyn turned the trick in the early years of this decade.


But the days races also left us with a number of questions. Among them:


1. What, really, was the impact of the extra week before state? Several teams, and a few more individuals, spiraled to disappointing performances. Was it random, or were the teams who came out unexpectedly flat afflicted by the extra week before state?


2. Why were times slower this year than last? Consider that in the 2008 state meet, run at the same site, 92 boys run below 17:00 and 103 girls ran under 20:00. This year, only 76 boys ran below 17:00 and 87 girls ran under 20:00.


3. What happened to the Evergreen girls? Evergreen's girls blitzed the competition all year long, but came up a disappointing fourth at state. A tough way to end a spectacular season; this team was much better than what they were able to show at state.


4. Will the state meet remain at Fossil Ridge HS next year or move to a new location?


5. When are the Pine Creek girls going to get the credit and recognition they deserve for such an outstanding season? That was a pretty good Highlands Ranch team they dropped to fourth place. If this team stays healthy, they could be a 5A title contender next year.


6. What changes will next year's classification moves bring to the power structure? Confirmed or rumored changes of classification include Air Academy to 4A, Greeley West to 5A, Rock Canyon to 5A, Yuma to 2A, Hotchkiss to 2A, Lyons to 2A, Alamosa to 3A, Discovery Canyon to 4A, Legend to 5A, Denver Christian to 2A, Erie to 4A, Green Mountain to 4A, Berthoud to 3A, Sand Creek to 4A, Peyton to 2A, Fossil Ridge to 5A, and probably a few more when everything settles out from last month's enrollment counts.


2A Summaries


The boys race had none of the intrigue of the Montoya-Stoot nail-biter last year. Ty Williams came onto the finish stretch with nobody in sight. The front group of this race had a very much over-the-Front-Range feel to it as Joel Villagomez of Center, Eric Lewis of Mancos, and Jacques de Genistel of Custer County rounded out the top four. Del Norte's boys put in an impressive show to grab fourth as a team, behind Rocky Ford, Nederland, and just-up-the-road rival Center.


Ty Williams. Photo by Alan Versaw.


For the girls, Erin Kelly and Kelley Robinson flip-flopped their order of finish from last year, and Kelsey Corbin of Mancos moved up one slot to third. Overall, however, the feel of the front pack was much the same as last year. As was the case last year, Nederland was dominant. Mancos moved up nicely to second this year, but a 14-point gap in a smaller field with only three runners scoring is still a formidable gap.


3A Summaries


It will take a while for the glow to leave Salida. And that's the way it should be. Forgive me while I edge a little bit toward the personal here. Losing is always a test of inner strength and will, but I could not pick a finer program to lose to than Salida. Coach Wilcox and his assistants have very nicely demonstrated what investing time, love, and enthusiasm in youth can produce. Salida was very much a struggling cross country program going nowhere three years ago. A first state cross country title for a program that has had some very good individuals in years past, but never a team like this. Job well done, Spartans!


For the girls, it was an up-front performance for the TCA Titans. After Kaitlin Hanenburg turned back the early challenge from Middle Park's Sam Berggren, it was all maroon up front as Hanenburg, Emily LaValley, and Shelby Stableford grabbed the top three places. Two more Titans finished in the top ten. Kaiti Davis of Salida (again--demonstrating that Salida's success is definitely not restricted to the boys' team) put in the surprise finish of the top 10, finishing 7th in 19:19. In a bit of a role reversal from last year, Estes Park edged Salida for second. Colorado Springs Christian was the overachiever among 3A girls, finishing seventh as a team and well above their ranking.



Emily LaValley, Shelby Stableford (partially hidden), Kaiti Davis, and Johanna Reed at 0.8 miles. Photo by Alan Versaw



4A Summaries


Greeley West entered the season as the 4A favorite, but the season did not start especially well for the Spartans. As one might expect from Spartans, however, the team kept fighting back and that refusal to quit earned them the school's second cross country state championship in the last three years. Kody Leach was the top finisher for West (8th, 16:26), but it was the 24-36-37 at 2-3-4 for the Spartans that brought the trophy home to Greeley. No other school had that kind of strength in the middle portion of their scoring lineup.


One of the other big feel-good stories of the weekend focuses on 4A girls. I have no idea how much longer Larry Zaragoza intends to keep coaching, but he just added a huge milestone to his already-impressive list of accomplishments--winning boys and girls state titles at two different schools. The girls state championship was a first-ever for the Alamosa program and was earned against a strong field comprised of teams from Thompson Valley, Cheyenne Mountain, Evergreen, and Mullen. Nikki DeSouchet led the way for the Mean Moose with a third in 18:54. While Alamosa was cleaning up in the team competition, an incredible individual battle was waged up front between Highway 34 rivals Allie Parks of Greeley Central and Becky Schmitt of Thompson Valley. Once again, Parks had the answers, separating ever-so-slightly from Schmitt at the very end to take an 18:17 to 18:19 win.


Allie Parks outduels Becky Schmitt down the finish stretch. Photo by Paul Jaeger.


5A Summaries


If there were any doubters left, the Regis Jesuit boys put the doubts to rest with a very convincing run through the 5A boys field. Coronado was definitely impacted by a tough race for Dusty Solis, but even if Solis had come through in first, Coronado could not have overtaken Regis. Regis's fifth, Ryan Van Portfliet, finished in 17:01 to seal the victory for the Raiders. Two top-ten finishes from Danny Nicolls (15:56) and Brian Sokas (16:17) certainly didn't hurt the cause. Walter Schafer won the individual title, but not until after seeing a sizable lead at 2.1 miles shrink over the final mile as Connor Winter and Danny Nicolls closed the gap.


Walter Schafer. Photo by Paul Jaeger.


Fort Collins continues to march on. All season long, no 5A girls team has been able to answer the Lambkins' strength all the way through the scoring five. State was no exception. Boulder's Kelsey Lakowske had a brilliant run to finish first (17:28). Teammate Sam Lewis was strong in fourth. Highlands Ranch put four girls in the top 17, but nobody could match the overall team balance of Fort Collins, who repeats as 5A girls state champions. Incidentally, the entire margin of victory for Fort Collin, over second-place Boulder was accounted for in the scores of the fifth runners. The surprise entry in the top ten was probably Loveland's Kailie Hartman in fifth with a time of 18:32.


Rachel Viger of Fort Collins leads the main pursuit group at just over one mile into the 5A girls race. Photo by Alan Versaw.