Nick Baca and Peyton come down from 3A this year and figure to add a serious element of interest to the 2A competition this fall. Photo by Alan Versaw.
As is the case with 2A girls, this should be the best year yet for 2A boys cross country.
To this point, 2A boys has belonged to Rocky Ford. But, after two consecutive years of being dealt reeling blows by graduation, the Meloneers will have to dig deep within their bag of magic to extend the streak to three years (or four, counting the 3A title in 2007).
It's not that anyone expects Rocky Ford to have a bad team; it's that Rocky Ford looks like a little bit of a young team this year and there are some solid entries across the rest of the field--solid enough to make this a very interesting race.
First, it should be noted that several schools are coming down from 3A due to reclassification. Probably the schools with the best shot at contending right away for a 2A title are Lyons, Denver Christian, and Peyton. All three were a little outgunned in 3A last year, but only having to score three in 2A makes a big difference.
Lyons seems always to have a decent cross country team. Zach Pfeifer leads the way for Lyons this fall. Denver Christian seems improbable based on last fall's cross country team, but it was a pretty decent 4x800 they pieced together at the state meet last spring. That would suggest there's enough talent there to make a run at a 2A cross country title. Peyton returns Nick Baca and Sabian Beard. If they find someone to go with these two, the Panthers could be mixing it up with the top 2A teams.
Last fall, Nederland was only a half-step behind Rocky Ford for the title. They should be back contending this year, led by Dan Johnson. But, if rumors about Nederland athletes enrolling at Fairview are true, this picture is definitely subject to change.
Del Norte surprised many people by finishing fourth in 2A last fall. Assuming nobody moved away, the entire scoring team is back this fall. That elevates Del Norte to the status of contender in a hurry.
The most intriguing team, however, is Telluride. Ty Williams, already featured in a Colorado Track XC article this summer, returns as the individual state champion. The supporting group behind him is solid and probably getting back as we discuss things. And, there's no way that the finish Colten Rogers had at last year's state meet reflects his potential.
If you pushed me into a corner and made me pick a preseason favorite, I'm pretty sure I'd lean toward Telluride. Both the boys' and girtls' programs at Telluride are top-flight 2A programs. And that little fact may add a bit of synergy to the performance of both teams.
Several other teams, including Alexander Dawson, Centennial, and Fountain Valley bear watching through the early part of the season. Last year's performances by these teams suggest that each are on the cusp of being solid contenders for this year's title. Each, however, needs a little stronger presence up front. With only three runners scoring in 3A, you can't have your top runner too far back in the field--you can't make up enough points with only two more runners. And you especially can't make up those points in the smallish fields 2A runs at state. You pretty much have to have at least one runner in the top 10 to win the 2A state meet. Right now, none of these three schools appears to have a runner who meets that projection.
Individually, everyone was chasing Ty Williams last fall. That certainly looks to be the agenda again this fall.
Eric Lewis of Mancos is the only returning 2A runner who finished within a minute of Ty Williams at last year's state meet. Lewis should get plenty of opportunities to see Williams throughout the invitational season.
Nick Baca comes down from 3A and figures to be a top contender at the 2A level, having spent last year chasing the likes of Josh Noriega and Josh Simkins. Jacques de Genistel of Custer County looks to be next in line.
Jordan Baca-Lefore of Rocky Ford ran 18:04 and finished 13th in the state meet as a freshman. Should he follow a normal freshman to sophomore progression, he may figure into individual contention as well.