Gabrielle Roth brings an 8th-place finish from this year's 4A state meet into the CS Metro 5A next year. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Pine Creek has ruled this little piece of real estate for a few years running now. The Eagles, however, may be a trifle more vulnerable in 2014 than they have been for a couple of years.
Graduation will hit the Eagles hard in May, but they still return three exceptional, proven runners in Kaleigh Kroeker, Devon Kroeker, and Natalie Kalin. Behind them are Calyssa Trautner and Madeline Alhamra. And you probably recognize at least half of the final name on that list. There are some question marks behind those five, but few teams enter a new season with an established five as solid as Pine Creek's.
Besides graduation, another reason that Pine Creek may be a little more vulnerable in 2014 than they have been is that Coronado moves up into the CS Metro 5A next year. The Cougars bring back two sub-19s in Gabrielle Roth and Olivia Babeu. That should be enough to fire a cannon shot over the rest of their new league mates. Realistically, Coronado will need to bring a few more under 20 to threaten Pine Creek, but the possibility is there. You can't transplant a program as good as Coronado without sending some ripples across the pond.
Rampart, Palmer, and Doherty figure into more or less a dead heat at this point. Each school will have some pieces to put back into the puzzle following graduation. Each school has some reasons to be optimistic about their chances. Palmer has the best returning depth. Rampart has the best returning lead runner in Thea Ramsey. Doherty has a little of both coming back.
Individually, the title seems to be Kaleigh Kroeker's to defend. Kroeker edged Hannah McIntyre at this year's league meet, but McIntyre graduates and the next returning runner from last year's league meet is Thea Ramsey. There was a fair piece of cross country course between Kroeker and Ramsey in this year's race, but it is worth noting that should Ramsey improve half as much from this year to next as she did last year to this, that ground can be made up in a hurry.