Lindsey Stindt is one of the big reasons that neither Lyons nor Akron may come in as the 2A girls favorite next spring. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Before we put a complete wrap on the track season just finished, the question begging to be answered is, "Who will be bringing the best hands back in each classfication next year?"
It's an interesting question, of course, but also one that comes with a lot of caveats.
Among the things we have to consider when asking that question is that it matters a great deal what the incoming freshman class is like at each and every school in the state. That matters more for girls than for boys, but there are annually a couple of freshman boys who make a difference at the state meet as well.
To illustrate what a freshman class can do for a team, look at the Hotchkiss girls. In 2010, Hotchkiss scored eight points at the 3A state meet. Seven of those points were scored by graduating senior CeCe Pieper. In short, prospects weren't looking so great for the Bulldogs in 2011. But, Hotchkiss scored 58.5 points in this year's state meet.
How? With an outstanding freshman class--most notably two freshman girls who combined to contribute 34 points as individuals. They also helped Hotchkiss to another pile of relay points.
Other consideration to take into account when trying to forecast the prospects for next year include injuries (both this year and next), changes of coaching, and simply changes in level of motivation of key athletes. Taking a look at this year's results won't tell you much, if anything, about any of those factors.
Still, it's fun to look. So, what follows is a quick glimpse at what teams look to be strongest in each classification based on who is coming back next year.
Walsh graduates a lot in Landry Cogburn and Laken Alley but, surprise, the Eagles should be right back in the mix of things (assuming they don't like arms with a few other small high schools in the area and run as Baca County again). Right now, Weston Meardon, Terrell Stafford, and Jonathan England look like the biggest contributors for Walsh next spring.
Walsh's closest competitor this year, Springfield, also takes some hits to graduation and, based on a virtual meet of returning athletes that ignores relays, Springfield takes second to Walsh again next year. And maybe these last couple sentences get posted on a locker room wall somewhere in Springfield High School. Bric Koehn's presence will be felt once again next spring and it seems likely the Longhorns will be loading the relays again.
While Walsh and Springfield come out on top for a projection for 2012, the gap they have on the rest of the 1A field is diminished.
Bethune, a 1A school in need of a cross country program, may be nipping closest on the heels of Walsh and Springfield. Alex Duarte figures in both the 1600 and 3200, and John Strobel brings the top returning times in both hurdle events. In addition to cross country, though, the Bobcats could use a little extra depth.
Depth will also likely be an issue plaguing Caliche. If the Buffaloes find a way to clone the talents of Eric Etl (distance) and Joel Edler (jumps/throws), they could be in next year's mix.
Vail Christian has returning talent spread across several individuals, but will need those individuals to contribute in multiple events to make a title run. There are a lot of pole vault points to be found in 1A, but likely not enough to make a serious title run.
Rember Merino? If not, take heart, they're likely to give you another opportunity to remember next year. Larissa Conger has graduated, but Anna Kindvall, Danielle Rinaldo, Makaya Lechman, and Malia Michel are back. That's also enough to stock a few relays. Merino will be back looking to repeat next spring and they're talented enough that the target is already on their back.
Two teams that figure to take up the chase should get to see a lot of each other next spring--Simla and Elbert. Simla loses Kristen Wilson but brings most of the rest of the cast--including Jessica George, Kenzi Mitchell, and Tanna Boyle, back. Logan Franek, Mariah Brown, and Taylor Upchurch figure to be the big point producers for Elbert again next year. The ability of these teams to produce competitive relays should be a telling factor in their title hopes next spring.
Vail Christian has Ashlyn Gruber (the heir apparent to take over Ashley Atkin's role at the state meet) and pole vaulter Kylie Alexander. It's a great start, but these two along won't win the state meet.
Jenna Zink is a big contributor for Caliche. Hannah Yahn and Sami Morgan will help the cause, but it's going to be a rugged piece of work reeling in programs like Merino, Elbert, and Simla.
Lyons dominated this last spring and a projection for 2012 has them right back on top, but not by much. Young talent grows older and better, and that's an axiom Lyons will be banking on next spring. Forrest Donnell, Ryan Boucher, and Matt Radich should put a bunch of points on the board next spring but it likely won't be enough without some emerging new talent.
Telluride, the 2A distance franchise, will be hungry next spring. Nathan Loomis and the brothers Williams (Ty and Jeff) look to be three-fourths of a vicious 4x800 team. And, they'll be looking for supplemental points in individual distance events. Ty Laframboise figures as a placer in the shot put, but team TNT needs more contributions outside of distance. It's tough to win it all from 800 meters and up.
Hoehne's plan appears to be the opposite of Telluride's--win it on short races and jumps. Tyler Cappellucci may be the classification's best sprinter next spring. Cody Howard, Dallas Duran, and Marcus Turner should be contributors as well. The Farmers will be looking for a harvest in May.
Other potential team contenders look like: Custer County, Wray, Burlington, and Holyoke. Holyoke possesses the top singular talent in Alex Quintana, but the Dragons need to bring a few more treasures out of the cave to be reckoned as a serious title threat.
Rumor has it that Lyons is moving up to 3A again. But, that won't happen until the 2012-13 school year, if it happens at all.
Even so, Lyons took a serious hit when this year's graduates marched across the stage. Life will be different without Rachel Hinker, Melissa Roberts, and Corbette Tschanz. Which is not to say that Coach Roberts' cupboard is bare. It's not. Michelle Hickey, Nola Basey, Miriam Roberts, and Olivia Raspotnik figure to make life interesting for anyone with designs on taking over the 2A state title.
Akron would be first in line looking to take over that title. The Rams have to be a little chafed over losing by such a thin margin to Lyons this year. Any redemption earned by Akron, however, will have to be done without the help of Sydney Clarkson. And while the talent represented in the names of Sidney Merrill, Ivanna Vance, Allyson Vasquez, and the Akron pole vault troupe is considerable, there's no denying that Clarkson did a lot of things for Akron that won't be easy to replace.
The reality of it, however, is that both Akron and Lyons could could find themselves leapfrogged by a program that got a little taste of success this year without graduating any of their key elements. That program would be Telluride, and they bring back hurdlers Emy Ludwing and Lindsey Stindt, distance runners Rachel Hampton and Shelby Brier, and sprinter/jumper Josephine Bush. And, with all that talent going toward individual events, TNT managed to load some pretty competitive relays last spring. Look for all that and more next spring.
Nederland returns Kelley Robinson and Rebecca Hermann. But, honestly, distance--even distance as good as Robinson and Hermann--isn't going to win it all in 2A next spring.
One tantalizing possibility concerns the merger of Denver Lutheran and Lutheran-Parker. Taylor Sturms has some high school eligibility remaining, but it's not exactly a given that she will take her attendance to Lutheran-Parker. If she does, however, the Lions (if that is what resolution of the mascot issue will be) could find themselves in the thick of things. Put Kendall Horan and Taylor Sturms on the same track and you could have something special, including a special relay or two. Keep your ear to the ground on the possibilities coming out of this school merger.
Dolores? Yes, we know about them and their propensity for nice relays. If Cassie Lard, Cydney McHenry, Lexi Atkinson, and Rachel Beverlin can put together enough individual points to accompany the relay points the Bears are bound to accumulate, Dolores will once again be part of the picture.
The graduation of Caitlyn Hubbard leaves Limon just a little thin. Breanna Stickels offers some sprint and pole vault possibilities. Keturah Tatum is an established hurdler/jumper. Marie Allen figures to be among the better throwers in the classification. Being Limon, you can figure there's some new talent coming up through the ranks but, right now, this doesn't have the look of a vintage year coming up for the Badgers.
The bad news for almost everybody else is that Rifle, TCA, and Faith Christian bring almost everybody back. Mead, Middle Park, and Cedaredge bring key pieces back as well, but closing the gap on the first three will take some doing.
For Rifle, the plan could easily be next year what it was this year--sprints, jumps, hurdles, and pole vault. Throws and distance weren't a big part of the plan for the Bears this spring and, with talents like Andrew Proebstle, Brandon Kittle, Ryan Moeller, Aaron Wagler, and Taylor Webb hanging around for another year, they don't really need to be.
Faith Christian loses only middle distance runner Sam Yeager from its collection of state point producers this spring. And the Eagles may not even miss those points provided that Evan Fortney comes to the state meet with a clean bill of health next spring. Grayson Bundick and Derek McCartney are now (clearly) the top two ranked throwers in the classification. Luke Yeager should pick up where his brother left off. And now the question would be, "Will there be any new pieces next year to help these guys out?"
TCA loses 28 state points by way of Josh Simkins. He will be missed, but the distance crew, led by Joshua George, Conner Wilburn, Adam Avischious, and Jake Purvis, is deep. Both the 4x400 and Clark Mourning missed finals due to DQs in prelims. While lightning can strike twice in the same place, there will be a lot of people paying close attention next spring to make sure it doesn't. Collin Scheer is one of the classifications best jumpers.
Mead returns Jared Hernandez and Alex Mead. That's a lot of points to bring back, but the Mavericks will have to find more to make the step to the next level.
Ditto for Middle Park and Sam Little. The Panthers can expect their usual quota of points in a pole-vault-depleted classification, but will need some points in the less specialized events as well.
University and Cedaredge have enough talent coming back to make or break the title hopes of other teams with how they score at state, but will be hard at work looking for new talent and further developing the talent they already have.
The big three each lost something. The big three each have a lot coming back. Behind the big three, however, are three more with a bunch coming back. It will be a huge surprise if anyone outside of Berthoud, Eaton, TCA, Cedaredge, Hotchkiss, and Pagosa Springs wins this thing. And you may be sure that, with competition being this tight, staying healthy will be a key to winning it all.
Starting with Berthoud, this year's champion, the loss of Cheyenne Hall and Julia Leonard figures to hurt, but Courtney Mills, Hannah Kirk, Mollie Bonds, Tacey Divittorio, and Ashley Prescott have shoulders broad enough to carry a substanial load. Figure also that the Spartans learned some important things from this year's title run that will add to the experience they bring to next year's race.
Eaton is loaded. Karli Jelden is back in the pole vault and discus. Mel Herl should be back throwing. Keri Ruff throwing. Ryleigh Haynes jumping and sprinting. Aimee Ledall and Brittany Pierce sprinting. Jazmin Schwark vaulting. And so it goes. If two dropped batons at state isn't motivating this crew next year, I can't imagine what would. If a target belongs anywhere, it would be on the backs of Eaton.
But that's not to suggest for a second it's a done deal.
Speaking of motivation, The Classical Academy should have a little of their own. First and foremost, the Titans will be looking to stay healthy. If they can do that, there's a long list of names capable of scoring points at state--Alexa Chacon, Shelby Stableford, Nicole Sassaman, Hannah Watters, Brianne Hoglin, Jessica Klingensmith, Hannah Carr, Lauren Hamilton, Kathryn Pennington, and Megan Brunette are the obvious ones. Not much left by way of graduation, but the points from high jumper Noelle Brown will be missed.
Hotchkiss could use another freshman class like this year's. If they get it, they could be unstoppable. As it is, it will be tough enough stopping Natalie Anderson and Jennifer Celis. Honestly, the Bulldogs could sweep the distance events. Kylie Hodges and Savannah Rocha add field event potential.
Cedaredge needs to find a way to build around the talents of Sierra Williams (likely the best returning sprinter in the classification) and Rebecca Deal. If that happens, the Bruins are in the mix.
Pagosa Springs will try to get a lot of mileage out of jumper/hurdler Gabby Pajak. Taylor Strohecker and Toni Stoll are solid jumpers. The Pirates probably need more out of the running events, though, to make a serious run.
One thing Mullen proved this spring: You can have a stable full of very fast Mustangs and still miss out on a state title. The short sprints tend to be a feast-or-famine kind of affair. Keeping all of your sprint talent healthy and sprint relays clicking smoothly ain't as easy as you'd think. Arthur Flores (shot put) adds a little bit of diversity to the kind of raw speed Cyler Miles and Jaylyn Mars bring to the table, but the guys in the blue jackets have to be pining a little for the days when they could count on a pile of points from field events and distance events as well. Another haunting question for Mullen: Will all that football talent be around and focused on track next spring. If so, it could be a very good year for Mullen. If not, it could be a very thin year.
Longmont, like Mullen, is a perennial contender. Not everybody is back from this year's team, but it's close enough. Hurdlers/jumpers Braden Hitchcock and Josh Cogdill are back. Pole vaulters Steven Wacker and Derek Wing are back with 15 feet in sight. Miles Bergner will be back slinging the discus. And you know Coach Tim McIntire is going to find more pieces. It always works out that way, doesn't it?
From the potential of Longmont and Mullen, it's a substantial step back--at least by way of a virtual meet--to Vista Ridge and Moffat County. Vista Ridge has many of its pieces back for next year (including Andrew Dubiel and Brandon Cartagena) and much of the story for the Wolfpack will hinge, as it did this year, on sprint relays. If the Wolves run the relays as they did this year, there's plenty for the other teams to think about.
Moffat County is a team in search of a solid supporting cast for Alfredo Lebron. Lebron, like another guy using the same name, is King, at least so far 4A distance for next year is concerned.
Thompson Valley is another team that will be looking to get a lot done by way of distance events. And, with Daniel Lara and Gus Waneka coming back, they have good reason to have high hopes.
Elizabeth will look to build around the jump and hurdle talents of Aaron Khoury and Scott Carter.
Durango has Jared Blake (hurdles) and Joe Maloney (distance) to build around.
Wasson has DJ Hanes (jumps), Seth Brown (hurdles), and Trevon Lewis (throws) to build around.
Broomfield has Ben Forsee (distance), Harrison Einspahr (sprints), and Joe Mitchem (middle distance) as a place to start.
Canon City has Dylan Brant (throws) and Zach McCoy (400).
It should be noted, however, that of all the schools just listed, only Vista Ridge is poised to make a reasonable run at Longmont and Mullen without something big in the way of new talent coming along.
This one could be seriously interesting. By my reckoning, at least seven schools are in it based on what comes back for next year. None of the seven have the cards to run away and dominate. Each has enough in place to make for a very interesting spring in 2012.
You start with Mullen. Taylor Klein just might take over Annie Kunz's role in the 4A hurdles. We'll keep an eye on what happens there. Christine Scott figures to be the best sprinter in the classification. Kelly Moore is a solid high jumper. More pieces would be nice, but these will take the Mustangs a long, long way.
Now, take a couple hour ride down I-25 to Pueblo South. It's been a while since the Colts were serious title contenders, but the wait appears to be over. Megan Patterson is the best shot putter in the state, regardless of classification. She also got a lot better in the discus last spring. Tyra Cruz adds depth in the throws. Samantha Bellah is a solid vaulter. The same can be said of Mariah Yarbrough, Angelique Urenda, Jessica Kleven, and Jayma Martin in their respective disciplines. Folks won't be running away from this crew.
Nor will folks run away from Valor Christian. We know about Jenine Beckie, MaryBeth Sant, Aimee Larrabee, and Claire Mueller, but somehow you have the sense there will be more talent in the stable next spring.
Thompson Valley is never far out of the picture. Karina Ernst is the big key for the Eagles, but also look for contributions from Lindsey Kroboth and Alexis Humann. If the distance group can restore some of the old magic, TV can compete with anyone next spring.
Discovery Canyon figures to get most of their production next spring from Heather Bates and Allie Morgan, but distance is a thin card on which to build title hopes. The Thunder needs more production--somewhere. Holly Shepherd and Meaghan Jordan may be the start of that "more production."
Pueblo West's G'Naya Stewart should be a force at 200 and 400 meters. Add her help in on a couple of relays and you have a good start on your point total at state. Jumper Kelli Barris and distance runner Mattie Jesmain need to be productive as well.
Niwot has Elise Cranny and Kelsey Traxinger coming back. Two is not a lot of people on whom to build title hopes, but you have a very capable twosome in Cranny and Traxinger. Realistically, though, the Cougars will need more.
Keep tabs on Green Mountain and Canon City. Good things could be happening at these schools as well.
This one has the look of a three-horse race: Fort Collins, ThunderRidge, and, of course, Fountain-Fort Carson.
Fort Collins has almost everybody back and they should have a collective chip on their shoulder. There is simply too much talent in Raymond Bozmans, Stephen Palmier, Jacob Hanks, Chase Thurgood, and a fold full of distance talent for the Lambkins not to be taken seriously next spring. Fort Collins will need some production from relays, but that figures to be there.
ThunderRidge has been quietly creeping into 5A's upper echelon of track and field for several years. 2012 could be the year that they make it happen in a serious way. Think about Keifer Johnson as the guy most likely to make you forget about Connor Winter next spring. Think about Patrick Voelker in the long jump and Dalton Vickles in the pole vault. The big question mark for the Grizzlies: Can they develop a serious relay presence? If not, this might become a two-horse race pretty quickly.
Fountain-Fort Carson? There's nothing stealthy about this outfit. If you don't know about Markes Woodson, Solyde Bankston, and Dakota Leazer by now, you've been living on another planet. But, the Trojans did take some big hits to graduation, especially in the jumps and hurdle events. The hits they took this year are bigger than the hits they took last year. But, it's still a deep well that they draw from. With the vagaries of military deployments and such, you never know exactly what F-FC will have from year to year, but you know they will be competitive. Or at least you should know that by now.
Monarch, Columbine, Poudre, Fossil Ridge, and Legacy? There's some fine talent represented at each of these schools, but not on a par with Fort Collins, ThunderRidge, and Fountain-Fort Carson based on who is coming back next year.
Loveland. No way enough graduation happened here to deplete the machine. Sure, Stephanie Hutsell and Maggie Anderson graduated. Just get used to hearing more of names like Taylor Buschy, Lisa Bohannon, Michal Bower, Celine Packham, and Stefani Tuder. You're already accustomed to hearing the names of Kaylee Packham, Anna Gerhard, and Sydney Spencer. The Indians aren't a lock to win it all again, but they're on everyone's short list.
Creating consternation in Loveland could be the crew at George Washington. We have three more years of Dior Hall and Chyna Ries. Nobody will get a lot of sleep while those two still have high school eligibility. Miriah Abram should add some jump depth. And, figure the relays have a better year at state than they did this year.
Rangeview may be a little thin on depth, but the combined forces of Katie Pham and Kim Krenrich (throws), and Rikki Gonzales (distance) should give the Raiders hope they can be state contenders next spring.
The announced imminent departure of Hannah Dimmick puts a serious dent in what could otherwise be a big year for Liberty. As it is, Kiera Brown, Gina Hauptman, and Hannah Everson will give folks something to think about. It likely won't be enough to derail to biggest 5A powers, though, without some reinforcements.
The other two on the horizon with high profiles are Fort Collins and Lakewood.
Fort Collins needs more production from the distance group than they got this spring. There's a lot more talent than Erin Hooker in this group. Katie Weber, Rachael Rudel, and Monica Franco should all be back scoring points for the Lambkins.
Lakewood brings back a very talented group in hurdler Haley Brogan, vaulters Lauren Brunsdale and Lauren Santi, high jumper Ewelina Pena, and 400 specialist Mckenzie Brogan. Projections are, however, that each of these are potentially mid-range or lower point scorers at state. To contend with this group, the Tigers will need one or more of these girls to post some tens and eights at the state meet.