It's never surprising when Littleton has a good team, but this year's squad is definitely among the very best in recent memory. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Early April is a long way out to be taking whacks at naming a team state champion. So, I won't do that. But this article, and those that follow it in the series, will take a serious look at who is showing especially strong early in the season.
And 5A girls is already shaping up as one of the best races of all.
Now that every team has at least one rankings meet (and most at least three) under their belts, the power is starting to become pretty clearly defined. We'll take a quick snapshot of six strong contenders and four more who have the potential to be there with just a few extra pieces coming together.
The Big Six (in alphabetical order):
Arapahoe - There is no mistaking this group for anything other than a serious contender. To-date classification best marks belong to Taryn Phipps (400), Stephanie Gerber (300 hurdles), and the SMR8. Joy Dafoe and Paris Duhamel add some strength to the list of top-tier athletes.
Doherty - The Spartans are showing strength in all the expected areas this spring, plus maybe a bit more in the way of a supporting cast than most were expecting. Jordan Rand is doing her thing in the long and triple jumps and also helping out in a serious way in the 100 and relays. Kelsey English has posted the best high jump marks in the state through the first four weekends. Alexis Cooks has been dominant in the throwing rings. And, while the 5A relays look brutally strong this spring, that is precisely where Doherty needs to assert a presence.
George Washington - Takara Reed and Brittany Lewis assured George Washington of a strong presence at this year's state meet. But, Chyna Ries has changed the picture dramatically. As the girl to beat in the 100 and 200, and at the very least one of the top contenders in the long jump, she takes George Washington's game up a notch. Relays could be critical to a serious title bid. Right now, the GW 4x100 ranks #6 in the state 5A ranks. The Patriots will need to improve on that relay showing to improve their chances come May 21.
Highlands Ranch - The distance group of Kristiana Oslund, Kristen Kientz, and Eleanor Fulton is producing--in a big way--this spring. Pam Yu has been posting some big horizontal jump marks (but also getting some bigger ones wiped out by the wind). Tierra Shumpert has looked very good thus far in the sprints. As of this moment, however, Ranch hasn't shown a serious relay threat. That leaves very little margin of error in a title bid for the Falcons.
Littleton - Littleton's place on the list of classification leading marks is nearly as impressive as Doherty's. Kaela Edwards tops the 800 list and the Lions seem to own the 4x200, 4x400, and 4x800 relays. And the Lions' depth at 400 meters is simply unreal. Try to imagine four girls (Kaela Edwards, Iris Hardarson, Dana Gaetani, and Grace Brittan) in yellow singlets and purple shorts on the start line of the 400 meter finals at state. Right now, that's a very reasonable scenario. If strength at 400 and 800 meters wins state championships, Littleton is in a very nice position.
Loveland - Currently, the Indians have only their 4x100 meter relay as an event leader in the 5A classification. But, Loveland has been here before--last year, in fact, when they won a state title without winning a single event. Stephanie Hutsell, Kaylee Packham, Maggie Anderson, Anna Gerhard, Taylor Buschy, and Sydney Spencer are all producing. Kailie Hartman figures to be heard from in a more serious way as the season develops. If anyone can respond in kind to the strength of the Littleton relays it is Loveland.
Four in the Hunt:
Cherokee Trail - Amoni Ashby has looked very impressive thus far in both hurdle events. Probably no school does relays better, year in and year out, than Cherokee Trail, and this year is no different. More help is needed, however, to take a step to the next tier.
Cherry Creek - Last year's state runner-up is back with some top-tier talent. Olivia Anderson has extended her repertoire to 1600 meters this spring and is faring very nicely. At this point, however, she may no longer be the 300 hurdles favorite (though still certainly one to be taken very seriously in that event). Rebekah Bosler has come along very nicely at 3200 meters. Jessica Daubert has been a pleasant surprise in the 100. The Bruins very much need a bit more depth, however.
Fort Collins - Remember the transfer rule. When you think about Fort Collins, think about what's still to come. Right now, Fort Collins is positioned very nicely. Names like Laresa Dern, Aubree Dietrich, Erin Hooker, Maddie Staab, and Monica Franco have the Lambkins well-positioned at this point. Assuming that extra little bit of help arrives, Fort Collins should become a serious title contender.
Heritage - This would be the third LPS school on the list of contenders. It's hard to escape the thought that the LPS district is a very strong player in the girls' track and field game (Incidentally, the current top-three 4x400 relay times belong to Littleton, Arapahoe, and Heritage.). Perpetually banging heads with Arapahoe and Littleton has to be at once both a blessing and a curse. Right now, it's relays that has Heritage in the race. Among individuals, only pole vaulter Carrie Nickel makes the 5A top eight in any event. That will have to change for Heritage to mount a serious team challenge.