Beth DeLaurell is one key reason that Discovery Canyon could easily improve on their fourth-place regional finish from last year. Colorado Track XC file photo.
Author's note; This is my team's home region. Since detailed discussions of my own team have a way of adding complexity of a potentially undesirable nature to the team dynamic, I will discus The Classical Academy only in a very matter-of-fact sort of fashion. If someone cares to craft a fair-minded evaluation of their own and post it to the comments of this article, I have no objection to that.
The four teams this region sent to state last year were Air Academy, The Classical Academy, Palmer Ridge, and Discovery Canyon. There's no guarantee that the same four teams go back to state this year, but if you glance at the rankings of returning runners, it would appear that is the most likely scenario.
Air Academy, last year's regional champion, graduated a couple of key members off their roster, but any team that brings back the likes of Katie Rainsberger and Kayla Wittala figures to have a lot riding in their favor. It's how the other positions fill out that will tell the tale here. Lilliana Hamilton comes up from middle school and is a strong candidate for one of the open positions. Chloe Reindl, Salena Gonzales, and Maddie Sexton each accumulated some valuable varsity experience last year. The Kadets figure to be solid. The questions at Air Academy are more questions of what the names will be once the roster is settled than whether or not the team will be competitive this fall. The latter is more or less a foregone conclusion.
The Classical Academy finished second at last year's regional race. Three of the seven state team members graduated, but Maddie Mullen, Megan Percy, Casey Griggs, and Kirsten Kropkowski return from last year's state team. If you project that these four retain their varsity status, that would leave three spots to be claimed by a couple of other runners with substantial varsity experience, last year's freshman class with limited varsity experience, and a couple of incoming freshmen.
Discovery Canyon gets a big push from the return of top runners Beth DeLaurell and Arianna Ross. in case you missed it, DeLaurell made some considerable strides forward as a distance runner last year between the end of cross country season and the end of track season. Yana Brown, Courtney McCann, and Caylin Hintz also return as sub-21 types, while Sydney Hosey had the kind of track season that suggests she could be ready to take a position in the scoring five. The Thunder--even without making any assumptions about the incoming freshman class--figures to be one of the deepest teams in the region.
Palmer Ridge has to be feeling bouyed a little by Hannah Capek's run at the Palmer Lake 4th of July race, where she came in as the top high school finisher. That adds a little punch to a lineup that already includes sub-20s Kaitlin Ramsey and Audree Furst. Although the Bears lose Ali Deitsch, they don't figure to skip a beat. My hunch is that they'll start the season not getting much credit from within the ranks of 4A. But, heads will turn soon enough.
Vista Ridge has the best shot of joining the region's top four, and sophomore-to-be Ashley Polk is a big reason the Wolves are in that position. But, Polk must first bounce back from a track season that ended long before its appointed time. Brittney Wells comes back as a senior this fall and figures to take up the #2 position in the order.
Although it's difficult to say what things may have developed since the end of last cross country season, no other school in the region returns any runners who have run less than 21 minutes for 5K cross country. That fact underscores how difficult it will be to bridge the gap up to the region's top teams.