As with any other year, there were several outstanding achievements in the sports of cross country and track and field. In this article, we try to narrow it down to a single most significant achievement.
Although this site concerns itself chiefly with cross country and track and field at the high school level, we also dabble in coverage of middle school and college track and field/cross country as opportunity arises. So, this evaluation will take into account achievements at all three levels for 2012.
And the honorable mentions (in no particular order) are:
1. Adams State College (now Adams State University) wins the DII men's outdoor track and field national title in Pueblo. The ASC men also took second in the indoor competition in March, but indoor pales against outdoor. Give any coach on the planet a choice between the two titles and that choice will fall toward outdoor every time. Outdoor is the pinnacle of the season, not indoor. Adams State won the national title by four points over Lincoln on the strength of individual titles by Boris Berian in the 800 and Drew Graham in the 1500.
2. Elise Cranny runs 16:59.9 at the Toka Sticks course to capture the NXR-SW regional title. Pushed most of the way by the relentless pursuit of Heather Bates and Katie Rainsberger, Cranny finally opened some space on the final stretch of the 5000-meter race to claim the title in an eye-popping time.
3. Chyna Ries goes an astounding 20-5.75 to win the long jump title at the Colorado Junior Olympic Indoor State Championships in February. You can make the case that the indoor long jump, being subject to fewer variables than the outdoor, is better suited to top marks, but Ries has many more 19+ marks to her credit (both indoor and outdoor) and this one exceeds all of those marks, save one from the Simplot Games, by more than a foot.
4. Dior Hall, and which mark do you pick here? Do you take the 8.19 to win the 60 meter hurdles at New Balance Nationals Indoor or the 13.45 to finish second at the US Junior Outdoor Championships? That's too tough of a call for me to make here, so we'll take them both and look forward to many more next year.
5. Kirk Webb goes 1:51.75 to set a new all-time best high school mark for 800 meters on Colorado soil. At this point, Webb's mark is not counted by CHSAA as an all-time best high school mark owing to a mark over a decade ago set in an out-of-state meet, but his does stand alone atop the list of all high school 800s run in the state of Colorado.
6. Placing all five of their scoring runners in the top 15, Adams State wins the DII national cross country title over in-state rival Colorado School of Mines with 34 points, exactly one-third of the total posted by Mines. Kevin Batt and Tabor Stevens led the charge for the Grizzlies, finishing third and fourth, respectively, at the national race.
7. Jordyn Colter, coming back strong after being unable to finish the state cross country race, stays with the lead pack throughout the Foot Locker Nationals race, ultimately finishing fourth in the storied event at 17:29.5.
8. Valarie Allman, who had chased the mark all season long, finally crushes the Colorado all-classification girls discus record with a final throw of 164-0 at the state meet.
9. Alicia Nelson, formerly of Moffat County High School and now running for Adams State University, wins the DII women's national cross country title in a Division II championship meet record of 20:03.3.
10. Raymond Bozmans runs 10.27 at the Dakota Ridge Invitational to set a new Colorado high school mark in the 100 meter dash. Hindered, perhaps, by cold and soggy conditions for the finals, however, Bozmans would miss setting the state meet record for the event in May.
11. Ashi Geberkidane, the guy few of us had even heard of prior to October, dominates the latter part of the cross country season, then goes on to easily win the 5A race (posting the best time for all classifications in the process) at the state cross country meet in Colorado Springs.
12. Paul Roberts of Lyons becomes Colorado's first high school freshman boy to win a state cross country title. Not only does he win the 2A state title but, even while running solo the better part of the race, posts the second-fastest time for all classifications en route.
13. Western State notched three national champions at the DII Nationals meet in Pueblo: Ryan Haebe (Evergreen HS) in the steeplechase, Tyler Pennel (Golden HS) in the 10,000 meters, and Susan Jackson in the high jump. Adams State notched a female individual champion with Kristen McGlynn's (Platte Canyon HS) 5000 meter title.
14. Wearing Colorado colors, Emma Coburn (Crested Butte) and Shalaya Kipp went 1-3 (with both reaching the A Standard) in the 3000 Steeple at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, to qualify for the US Olympic team. Kipp had already won the NCAA DI Steeple title earlier in June. Coburn would go on to finish 9th in the Olympic 3000 Meter Steeplechase.
So, what possible achievement could outrank all of the above, you ask? Good question, and I concede I'm putting my neck on the line a little here. But, as I weigh all the factors and try to consider all of the variables, my conclusion is that the single biggest accomplishment of cross country and track and field in Colorado in 2012 was posted by a middle school team.
And here is the rationale:
Salida is not a large school. It is a small school. The most current enrollment listed for the high school is 298 students, placing the school squarely on the small end of 3A. This would mean the middle school, including grades 6 - 8, likely figures as just slighly smaller than that.
No, the Colorado Middle School State Cross Country Championships meet is not attended by all middle schools in the state. There are some understandable and some disappointing reasons for that, but it is a very good cross section of schools nevertheless, including several large Denver metro area and Larimer/Boulder County area schools that take their cross country very seriously.
Into that milieu steps a team of eight girls who drove more than two hours to get to the meet that morning. They come from a community of modest means, not a community of affluence. The city is not in a boom cycle, but has lost five percent of its population since 2000. The community is aging; the school has lost well more than five percent of its population since 2000. The median household income for Salida (2009) was $37,000, versus a median for the entire state of $55,000 for the same year. It is more a blue collar community than a community of privilege.
And yet, the Salida Middle School girls team found a way to win the middle school state championship. Pictured above is the winning team of Harper Powell, Taryn Ceglowski, Kori Davis, Bari Beasley, Susan Wadsworth, Olivia Denwaldt, Taylor Hadley, and Alexandra Maes. Their accomplishment was likely the most improbable of all the accomplishments listed above and worthy of far more recognition than what it has received to date.
They got it done without a single standout individual. None of these girls finished in the top ten of the race. So, against much larger schools and without a ringer in their midst, they still managed to outpoint the competition. That speaks volumes of the quality of the program.
The team was coached this year, and for several years running, by Sara Wilcox. If Sara Wilcox is a fire-breathing maniac of a coach, I've never seen that side of her. What I know of her is that she is a mother of children still in diapers and one of the kindest, sweetest persons I know. Her husband happens to coach the high school team. It couldn't happen to a nicer person.
Hats off to an incredible program and an incredible accomplishment!
Photo credit: Megan Percy