Job one for Chris Baker will be winning a team state title, but if things go well he may figure into the individual race as well. Photo by Ron Eberhard.
All season long, we've been thinking of Lamar as the favorite in 3A boys, then along came the Frontier Academy wrecking crew at 3A Region 4. And, suddenly, we now have a spirited contest for the state title.
On a reasonably fast regional course, the four FA guys all finished at 17:03 or faster. That's very, very big news in the land of 3A. On a similarly fast course in Pueblo, Lamar destroyed 3A Region 2 with four times of 17:49 or faster.
I don't pretend for a second to think that regional times necessarily compare from course to course in a straightforward way that allows for much precision in predicting for the state meet, but Frontier Academy's regional performance does trump Lamar's. In particular, Lamar must close down their 3-4 gap from regional to keep themselves in the state title hunt.
Are there any other teams with a hope or a prayer? Of course there are; that's why we actually show up and race the thing, but Frontier Academy and Lamar rate as substantial favorites.
Realistically, the next two teams with best hopes are Alamosa and Peak to Peak. Alamosa is a very young team this year that last to Lamar by 20 points at the regional. Alamosa may yet be a year away from being a state meet heavyweight, but this is a very good team. P2P floundered a little at their regional and got upended by Platte Canyon for the regional title. If P2P is feeling the sting of that a little, there may yet be hope for them in the state title contest. The Pumas typically run a pretty good pack but have some of the 3-4 gap concerns that Lamar does.
It would be a substantial reach for any other team to climb into this race. Stranger things have probably happened, but ...
As far as individuals go, Ben Espinola owns the best time of the seaon, but the deeper we get into the season the more suspect the times from the St. Mary's Academy meet appear. Espinola was well out of the lead at 3A Region 3.
So, we look for some additional names for our list of favorites. Jacob Benson is one of the first names coming to mind. Benson lives in South Park and trains with Platte Canyon. Those are excellent credentials to be bringing to the state meet this year. He also pummeled the field in his regional race.
Lamar's Josh Davis has been winning races all season, and he and his teammates have been making regular trips to the Wet Mountains to prepare themselves for the hills and the altitude in Colorado Springs. Davis doesn't figure to be lagging off the back end of the lead pack on Saturday.
Bayfield's Trevor Gabbard has been quietly rolling up folks, 3A and otherwise, on the western slope. He's one we figure to learn a lot about on Saturday.
Holy Family's Erich Hixson (who was MIA at regionals) and Faith Christian's Luke Yeager are two more with good reason to hope they can be in the title hunt. It's also not out of the question that Frontier's Chris Baker, who's still just barely into his season, figures into the individual title race.
On Saturday, it all settles out. However it settles out, it seems a safe bet we have a new 3A team and individual champion (actually, the latter is guaranteed, but not quite yet the former).