4A State Analysis (updated)

Although Allie Morgan's teammates have been hit hard by injury, Morgan remains one the top-ranked individuals in 4A. Photo by Alan Versaw.



Some may suggest that this series of articles has arrived too early. Why now instead of two weeks from now? There are a couple of reasons for this. Number one, I have a lot more time right now than I figure to have two weeks from now. Number two, if some team or some individual finds that extra bit of drive and motivation from reading this article (whether that team and/or individual feels slighted or properly recognized for the first time), better that the extra drive and motivation should arrive now than two weeks from now when the door of opportunity has swung mostly shut.


Clearly, in 4A as in other classifications, there are favorites and underdogs. Not talking about those statuses won't make them go away. We overcome challenges in life by facing them, not fleeing from them. I trust that this article, and those that follow, will be read in that light. I wish the best to all competitors at the state meet, and I look forward to many exciting races.




If the 4A state titles looked like done deals at any point in the season, they look that way no longer. Both the boys and the girls promise some exciting competition right down to the wire.


4A Boys Teams


Between Anna Banana, the Coronado Cougar Classic, Dave Sanders, Liberty Bell, and the TCA Titan Thunder Invitational, each of the major contenders has had a big showing at a big meet.


Cheyenne Mountain has been ranked at the top of 4A throughout the season, but that ranking has yet to make believers of Pueblo South, Evergreen, Broomfield, Coronado, Moffat County, and Thompson Valley. The Indians have taken on 5A competition all year long and have fared nicely in almost every instance. They've been consistent and they've been fast. That, of course, helps to explain how they've maintained the #1 ranking all season.


Pueblo South features Brandon Lange and then a pack that tends to run 30 seconds to a minute or so behind him. The Colts could benefit immensely if that pack were to close up by 15 seconds or so on Lange.


Evergreen has managed a couple of meet titles this season, but those titles have tended to come in smaller divisions of large meets or against mid-level competition. The Cougars will need a big-time effort against big-time competition to come away with the 4A title.


Broomfield had a huge outing at the Liberty Bell Invitational, showing that they understand something of what it takes to win in the big meet. Whether by design or coincidence, however, Broomfield hasn't looked as strong in other outings. The Eagles are probably a dark horse candidate for the 4A state title, but not the kind of team you want to take lightly.


Coronado pulled to within a point of Cheyenne Mountain at the Coronado Cougar Classic and therefore have to be considered dangerous. Coronado's margin of error, however, is slimmer than Cheyenne Mountain's. The Cougars do not boast as deep of a lineup as Cheyenne Mountain, nor have they been as consistent in their meet performances as Cheyenne Mountain. We must also acknowledge, however, that inconsistency in meet performances sometimes happens by design.


Only recently have we been compelled to look at Moffat County as a serious 4A title contender. The front two of Chris Zirkle and Alfredo Lebron have been spectacular all season. The rest of the scoring lineup--Rene and Miguel Molina and Johnny Landa--have only recently been closing ground on the front two. They've drawn close enough that it's no longer possible to simply dismiss the Bulldogs the circle of serious title contenders. This is a team that travels well, and apparently a team with a consuming hunger to be at the top.


Thompson Valley has been an enigma most of the season. Ranked very high early, the Eagles more or less dropped off the radar for a few weeks. A solid performance at last week's Andy Myers Invitational has a few hopes rekindled, however. Like Broomfield, this is a dark horse entry, but there does seem to be a stirring in the embers. TV definitely needs some boys to close ground on their front two of Gus Waneka and Daniel Lara as the Moffat County Bulldogs have with their front two.


While allowing that many, many things are possible in high school cross country, none of the other 4A boys teams have given us an indication that they are ready to make a serious bid for the state title. Time is running desperately short to give that indication.


4A Boys Individuals


Based on results posted all season long, this one should be Spencer Wenck's to lose. "Should," however, is the operative word. While nobody in 4A has given Wenck a serious run for his money all season, a lot of things can go wrong on any given day, and the rest of this discussion will center on who can contend should things take a turn off the well-beaten bath.


Mike Cernoia of Pueblo West has been closest to Wenck this season when he's been on. For a couple of weeks, Cernoia seemed to be struggling a little, but the ship seems to be righted now. We hope so.


Behind Cernoia, there's a serious pack of contenders from the western slope. This would include Chris Zirkle and Alfredo Lebron of Moffat County, David Shearon of Battle Mountain, and Andrew Mansfield of Glenwood Springs. Mansfield showed a little something last weekend by traveling five hours to Cortez and taking a race from Telluride's ace--Ty Williams. Shearon came over the mountain and beat everyone (easily) at the Dakota Ridge Invitational. Zirkle and Lebron have permanently affixed themselves to places one and two wherever they travel. This group is more than capable of cleaning up should anyone falter in front of them.


There's a short list of others who might conceivably make some noise up front at state. That would include Brandon Lange, Mitch Kasyon, and Gus Waneka. Based on the Northern Conference results from Oct 14, add Chandler Reid of Centaurus to that list.


It would be a surprise of a very high order if the eventual state champion has somehow avoided mention here.


4A Girls Teams


Wow, is this one ever close!


The obvious contenders at this point are Cheyenne Mountain, Evergreen, and Greeley Central, but this one may go beyond the obvious.


Cheyenne Mountain has managed to show well wherever they go, sometimes even with top runners out of the lineup. The Indians haven't posted eye-popping kinds of times for the most part, but have done well on the strength kind of courses that most closely emulate what they can expect at state.


Evergreen has looked progressively stronger as the season has progressed. That has been all the more evident since Maura O`Brien returned to the lineup. Unlike last year, Evergreen gives the appearance of building toward state rather that blasting everyone out before state and hoping to continue the demolition process clean through the state meet.


Greeley Central had a sub-par kind of showing at Pat Patten, but has been otherwise solid. The key for the Wildcats will be the showing of their #4 and #5 runners at the end of the season. The top three have been strong and steady throughout the season.


After a strong start, Mullen has struggled a little and the rumor mill reports that at least one key injury is impacting the Mustangs' season.


Niwot has looked alternately spectacular and out of sync. If spectacular shows up at state, the Cougars may have an outside shot at making things interesting at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds.


Thompson Valley finally put a piece or two together at the Andy Myers Invitational. A lot of people seemed ready to dismiss the Eagles until that happened, but things are suddenly looking a great deal brighter now.


Injuries have taken a bite out of Discovery Canyon's hopes of being a big-time contender at state.


4A Girls Individuals


Track and cross country aren't the same sport.


Coming out of track season, I felt reasonably sure Allie Parks wouldn't be able to repeat her state cross country from 2009. I see things differently now. If anyone knocks off Parks, it will rank as an upset. Parks has had a solid season off the oval and on the grass and trail. And, with Greeley Central in the thick of the team race, Parks will have everything in the world to run for at state.


There are maybe as many as six girls with some realistic hope of being able to chase Parks. One wears the same uniform that Parks does--Janelle Martinez. Like Parks, Martinez will have plenty to run for.


Also like Parks, but in a different way, Dani Grossman has something about last track season to prove at the state meet. Grossman suffered through a miserable (for her) track season last spring. The engine is firing on all cylinders again this fall, however. And Grossman also has the team factor playing in her favor. A nice run for Grossman here at the end of the season will do a great deal to bouy the title hopes of Cheyenne Mountain.


Although Palmer Ridge doesn't realistically figure to contend for the team title, Ali Deitsch has been enjoying a spectacular season for the Bears. Only a freshman, the state meet may deliver a few variables outside of Deitsch's experience, but she's dealt with a lot in big meets already this season.


Karina Ernst finally got things untracked, along with the rest of her Thompson Valley teammates, last Friday. If that race was an indicator of a trend, Ernst just might have barely enough time to make up the ground necessary to contend for a state title. It wouldn't be the same if someone from TV wasn't contending for a state title--if you get my drift.


And, finally, Maddy Jourgensen. Another in a long, long line of Moffat County standouts, Jourgensen also had a rather slow beginning to her season, complicated by a minor injury at the Arapahoe meet to open the season. She seems to be much more back in the groove now and should be kept on the A list of potential contenders.


Our final state title contender is the cover girl for this article--Allie Morgan of Discovery Canyon. Morgan has raced very nearly all of the best runners in the state this season, and she has acquitted herself nicely in those races. She's been a part of state track and state cross country many times already. Her season is going well. Keep an eye on Morgan. She doesn't figure to take the lead early, but she figures to be around when the dust settles.