Daniel Book leads a strong Cherry Creek team at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede. Photo by Alan Versaw.
With the Labor Day Weekend races now in the books, we can take a quick look and see what they tell us about the Southwest region.
The one meet you really wanted to pay attention to was the Las Vegas Labor Day Classic. The one team you really wanted to pay attention to in that meet was the Centennial boys. But, you had to pay attention closely because of the nature of the meet. The meet has an 11/12 division and a 9/10 division--a clever means of keeping pretty decent teams cleverly disguised. If you look at both sets of results, however, the cloaking device becomes transparent.
The tale both sets of results tell is that Centennial has Jackson Carter at 16:05, Dajour Braxton at 16:13, George Espino at 16:44, Spencer Day at 17:13, and Brian Espino at 17:19. That's for 5K. And, that's not a bad start for a competitive team for this time of year. The dropoff seems a little steep after the first five, so there will be a premium on staying healthy, but it's also early in the season and things can get better over the course of a season.
For now, though, let's wrap our heads around the idea that this year's Centennial team just might be the best team to come out of Nevada since the Southwest region mattered.
Utah had twice as many meets to pay attention to as Nevada did this weekend. In American Fork, they ran the famed Grass Relays. In Orem, they ran the Utah County Invitational. For a state as big as Utah, that's not much geography between the two showpiece meets.
At American Fork, there was no Davis to challenge the Cavemen this year. Connor McMillan batted leadoff and ran the second-fast two-lap circuit ever at the Grass Relays with a 9:52. That gave AF a lead they never relinquished. Bolstered by Colorado transfer Clayson Shumway, Lone Peak finished a solid second, 48 seconds behind the Cavemen. It would have been a lot bigger than 48 had not Shumway done some serious closing of the gap on the final leg.
The American Fork girls, whom I suspect many gave a great shot of winning on their home circuit, were hammered by four different teams, but most notably Bingham and Park City. Park City looked much better this week than last.
At Utah County, Herriman's Lucy Biles taking the win was not quite enough to keep Timpanogos out of a girls team first. Right now, Timpanogos has a 4-5 gap that needs to come down a little, but they have the look of a very good team nevertheless. Mary Christensen and Rachel Bocanegra give the T-Wolves a vicious bite at the front of the pack.
Timpanogos was also stunningly good on the boys side of the ledger, taking a big win over Westlake, Mountain View, and Herriman--kind of an abbreviated who's who of Utah high school cross country. McKay Mace and Ammon Nimmer (a lot of m's there, boys) were both under 16 for three miles, and two more were right behind them. Figure Timpanogos to be one of the best programs in Utah this fall and count on this series to continue to watch them over the course of the season.
Nothing we saw this weekend out of Utah, however, unseats Davis from the pole position of Utah girls. We'll see what develops as we get deeper into the season, but Davis does appear to be leading the chase.
There were only a small handful of meets in New Mexico this weekend. The largest horsepower program in action over the weekend appears to have been Rio Rancho. Taking on other New Mexico 5A powers Clovis and Hobbs, Rio Rancho easily won both the boys and the girls races at the Clovis Invitational. The boys, led by Abran Ramos, had six guys at 17:17 or better for three miles. Molly Kline led the girls with a nice 19:34, but the 1-5 split spanned 2:54, a time that will have to come down for Rio Rancho to compete well with New Mexico's best teams.
The place to be in Arizona this weekend was in the Valley of the Sun for the Sole Sports Runing Zone/Cigna Cross Country Festival.
And it was there that we learned we just might have to get used to a new dominant girls team in Arizona. Desert Vista took everything Xavier College Prep had to offer and still turned the Gators back, and decisively so. Dani and Baylee Jones did most of the damage up front, lending new layer of futility to the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses."
On the boys side, it was Corona del Sol taking a little bit of a surprising win over Desert Vista, Heretofore, DV has been the early season power in Arizona. CdS had some different ideas about that, at least for this year. Nate Rodriguez and Ryan Normand were way out in front of the field, and threatening 15:00 for three miles, for CdS.
This series isn't so much about individual analysis, but Cerake Geberkidane's 15:12 5K at the Arapahoe Warrior Invitational is something to cogitate over a little. Not only is it a new course record, but it's a whole new league of course record for a meet that's been kicking off the season for time out of memory.
As dominant was Geberkidane was over the individual race, so Mountain Vista dominated the the team scoring. And Mountain Vista clearly goes more than five deep this year. Colorado lacked a truly dominant boys team last year, but Mountain Vista has the look of being that kind of team this year. Coach Jonathan Dalby has the motor purring. Coronado had an opportunity to show something here, but that opportunity withered on the vine when Bailey Roth pulled out of the race. We aren't writing off Coronado at all, but revelations are on hold for the moment.
The girls race was a showdown between the recognized juggernauts of Colorado girls cross country--Monarch and Fort Collins. Monarch put five under 20:00 to three for Fort Collins and won the team total by a margin of 53 - 78, in spite of a spectacular debut by Fort Collins freshman Lauren Gregory. No other team was even remotely close.
Colorado's biggest meet of the weekend went on Thursday at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede. Several of the state's top programs bypassed the meet in favor of Arapahoe this year, but there was still a good contest at the front--so good, in fact, that the boys team title came down to one point between Cherry Creek and Boulder. Count on both teams being good this year, but concede round one to the Bruins of Cherry Creek.
Cherry Creek pounded the girls side of 5A with a deeper roster than they ever showed last year. Jordyn Colter is definitely still out in front, but this year there's a very capable six behind her. Cherry Creek could be trouble, and their home meet next week might give us a little more insight into how strong the hand they are holding really is.
In the 4A camp, Thompson Valley put on the kind of show that should earn them a few second looks over the next few weeks.
For now, it's safe to say that the top three Colorado girls teams are Monarch, Fort Collins, and Cherry Creek. We'll worry more about order as we get deeper into the season.
Coming Up This Week
In Colorado, the big-deal meets of the weekend are the Cherry Creek Invitational on Friday and the St. Vrain Invitational on Saturday. We'll also keep an eye on the Centaurus Invitational, which has the potential to turn out some nice results of its own. In New Mexico, absolutely all eyes will be on the UNM Lobo Invitational on Saturday morning. In Nevada, we'll track the Larry Burgess Invitational in Las Vegas on Saturday on the UN-Reno Twilight meet on Friday. At least we'll try--results are historically a bit more of a challenge in Nevada. Utah's big meets will be at Murray and Utah State. And Arizona? There's a big meet happening in Flagstaff in conjunction with the Northern Arizona University meet, and there is the Chandler Invitational, both on Saturday.