If you're looking for a wild card who could potentially spin the 2A girls race for a loop, you need look no further than Jenna Anderson. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Fresh off of moving down from 3A, Hotchkiss dominated this thing for their first-ever state cross country title (they'd been second a couple of times before, though) last fall. The entire team is back and has yet to be seriously threatened by any 2A school they've gone up against.
And, realistically, that gives them the look of favorite going into Saturday's race. But I think it would be reasonable to expect the gap to be a little smaller than last year.
Natalie Anderson and Jenni Celis give Hotchkiss a formidable 1-2. And Hotchkiss is no stranger to hill work. But, both Lyons and The Vanguard School are the kind of programs that could potentially create problems for the Bulldog machine. A gap between Hotchkiss and either Lyons or Vanguard that seemed unbridgeable at the start of the season has shrunk over the last few weeks as both Lyons and Vanguard have shown considerable improvement.
Regional results suggest that Paonia, Nederland, and Resurrection Christian, while each solid teams in their own right, have a greater distance to go to close any gaps on the reigning champions.
At this point, Miriam Roberts of Lyons appears as the individual favorite. Roberts is a patient runner and, at least with a smaller field such as 2A has, the state course is a patient runner's course. On top of all that, Roberts is the top returning finisher from last year.
But, it's not a done deal. Four seconds back of Roberts last year was Natalie Anderson. It's the last CHSAA cross country race for both individuals and you might as well figure that both will be going after it with all they have to bring. It seems unlikely that anyone will be breaking up the top two here.
But, it could get interesting behind the top two, and especially in terms of how things play out in the team race. Hotchkiss very much needs a low point contribution from Jenni Celis. If she runs third, she's done her duty for the cause. But, battling her for third will be individuals like Taylor Polson and Rachel and Rebekah Rairdon. Mae Anderson, Ariana Toland, Ginger Hutton, Bailey Kuechenmeister, and Anna Fake look like the next tier. Only Fake has no bearing on the team scoring.
To win a team title, Lyons desperately needs a huge race from Jenna Anderson. If Anderson can displace at least one of the Hotchkiss top three (and there's getting to be a lot of Andersons here) and get a little help on that score from other teams as well, Lyons has a hope in the team tally. On the other hand, if Hotchkiss puts their #4 (who now appears to be Katy Parsons) in ahead of the Lyons #3 (Sierra Tucker), that could pretty much wrap things up in the opposite direction. Suffice it to say that the girls in red and the girls in blue have a lot to run for on Saturday.
Honestly, prospects look a little dimmer for Vanguard than for Lyons on this score, but don't rule out the possibility. When you're scoring three in a small field, the possibilities are almost boundless.
Heritage Christian Academy seems to be one year away from being a certified contender. If they can bolster their #3 position in the next 12 months, be paying close attention to this team about this time next year.