Staring into November: Nike Cross Regionals - Southwest (Boys)

It didn't take long for Albuquerque Academy and American Fork to establish their places at the front of last year's NXR-SW event. Photo by Alan Versaw.


If you clicked on this article, there's a good chance you're already a certified cross country junkie. If so, count yourself as among friends.

While I can't promise that this article (or the soon-to-appear companion piece on the girls) represents the final preseason word on Nike Cross Regionals - Southwest for 2010, it should be enough to get the conversation rolling.

Let's start with a look at last year's top five teams from Nike Cross Regionals - Southwest:

American Fork, Utah - The Cavemen have something they didn't have last year--NXN experience. The Cavemen may also have to learn to deal with an adversary they didn't have last year--complacency. On paper, this is a very, very good team for 2010. Of the seven who ran varsity at NXN-SW last November, five are back. Those five include the top two of Austin West and Clayton Young. West and Young went 1-2 in the 3200 at the Utah state track meet this spring, so don't count on any slippage from these two. Teammate MacKenzie Morrison was fourth in the same event. You start to get the picture. Anyone who doesn't have American Fork on their very short list of prohibitive favorites at NXN-SW is simply not paying attention.

Albuquerque Academy, New Mexico - The Chargers will be back; they always are. It doesn't matter who they graduated (and they did graduate a load); there are always boys waiting to step into roles as big dogs. Longenbaugh, Jochems, Wynn, and Rieder are back for the Chargers, and there are a bunch of 4:30s/low 10s kind of guys ready to fill in alongside them. Shed no tears for Adam Kedge. We should get a very clear picture of how strong this team is when they make their annual pilgrimage to Colorado for the Liberty Bell Invitational on September 17.

Mountain View, Utah - almost 100 points in arrears of American Fork and AA was Utah's version of Mountain View High School. Four of their top five from NXN-SW have graduated, leaving the likely role of leadership to senior-to-be Travis Taylor. Taylor was third in the Utah 4A 1600 and that speaks well for his ability to step into the role of leadership, but Mountain View does not have the look of a team closing the gap on American Fork at this point in time.

Davis, Utah - Of the top five for Davis last November, only Joe Davis and Brad Nye return. Davis, however, is a notoriously deep program and figures to have the bodies to ably step into the fray. Things may be a little ragged early in the season, but don't count on them staying that way for long. Austin Neuner has already begun taking steps up, finishing sixth in the Utah 5A 1600 and ninth in the 3200. For Davis to threaten American Fork or Albuquerque Academy, however, there will have to be more taking Neuner kind of steps.

Timpanogos, Utah - And so we round out a top five that was comprised of four Utah teams. The good news is that Timpanogos has a rich tradition and will gets lots of stiff competition in Utah this fall. The bad news is that they graduated their top six from last year's NXN-SW finish. Timpanogos was not well represented in the Utah state track meet.

And, what about the other states?

Nevada - Wade Meddles graduated. Team-wise, it will take a huge surge from somewhere to blast a Nevada-sized hole in the top ten at NXN-SW 2010.

Arizona - If you learned nothing else from NXN-SW 2009, you should have learned that Arizona was rich in top-tier distance individuals last year and a little thin in teams. Most of the individuals have graduated. Catalina Foothills (last year's #6 team at NXN-SW) is the top returning team and they have at least the initial look of a contender. The top three of Dylan Souza, Mike Whetzel, and Rex Woodbury should be back as seniors this fall. Rio Rico lost two of three front runners and isn't showing a lot of depth from which to fill those holes. Alhambra is definitely an Arizona-based wild card. The team went through a great deal of turmoil last fall but put things back together to finish decently at NXN-SW. And, they have plenty of talent returning. If the turmoil stays behind them this fall and the young talent continues to develop, Alhambra should be on the watch list for this fall.

Colorado - What to make of a state that dominates the region in girls and barely sends a team in boys? The lure of FLMW is still strong in Colorado. And, the fact that Colorado's top boys teams were a little shredded by graduation this spring doesn't seem to bode well for Colorado fielding the kind of team that can challenge American Fork or AA this fall. Cherry Creek, Regis Jesuit, Cherokee Trail, and Fairview each took big hits to graduation. Dakota Ridge, which sent a team to NXN-SW and placed in the top ten, just might be the top Colorado entry at NXR-SW once again. That Dakota Ridge placed higher at NXN-SW than they did at the Colorado 5A state race suggests that some of Colorado's stronger programs may yet turn an eye toward NXN-SW, especially with the load of individual talent that graduated this year. The number of Colorado individuals with reasonable hopes of advancing to FLN appears to be sharply reduced this year. If you're looking for a Colorado dark horse, that would be Arapahoe. Connor Winter ran at NXN-SW last fall and picked up a few promising teammates in track this spring.

While New Mexico and Utah don't qualify as "other" states, there is still a word or two to be said about some other programs from these states.

It hasn't been so long ago that Los Alamos ran at Nike Cross Nationals that anyone is likely to have forgotten them yet. Although Kyle Pittman has graduated and the remaining talent didn't threaten AA's top returners in the New Mexico state track meet, this is still a dangerous, and well-coached, team. Keep half an eye out for the Hilltoppers in results this fall. Don't be surprised if November rolls around and they're a significant player.

Elsewhere, La Cueva figures to be back and competitive. Rio Rancho has the makings of a very good team, but struggled late in the season last year. Cibola took huge hits to graduation.

In Utah, there is a whole host of candidates hungry to make some noise at NXN-SW. Add at least Pine View, Ogden, Pleasant Grove, and Bingham to the list of teams with potential to be top ten at NXN-SW. Right now, Utah is indisputably the most competitive state in the region for boys cross country teams. Dipping a little into smaller schools, keep an eye on Park City as well.

The Venue

NXN-SW returns to Kiwanis Park in Tempe, this fall, though--hopefully--with a different course configuration than last fall. Never a course designed to produce exceptional times, it was even less so last fall with the five significant climbs weaved into the route. Congestion related to construction activity at the park was also a factor at multiple points on the course. And, acres of dead bermuda grass gave the place a generally dreary feel last fall. Everyone hopes things are back to normal this fall.