Palmer Ridge had a firm grasp on the team standings lead at one-third of a mile. Photo by Alan Versaw.
The well-oiled machine from just barely on the sunny side of the Palmer Divide dispensed with the competition at Thursday's 4A Region 2 meet.
The girls got their chance first. Air Academy and Palmer Ridge were ranked close in the latest 4A poll, but that was apparently not satisfying enough for Palmer Ridge. Like everyone else, Palmer Ridge was content to let Katie Rainsberger (18:08) run alone well off the front of the pack, but that wave of navy blue that followed around the course was all about Palmer Ridge.
Palmer Ridge got a second from Audree Furst (photo, right, by Alan Versaw), and a 5-6-9 from Hannah Capek, Claire Wilson, and Emily Croft. In a region where top-ten places are tough to come by, that was most of what the Bears needed to secure a regional title. Palmer Ridge's 40 points was 15 ahead of Air Academy and 18 ahead of The Classical Academy. There was no other team that was even remotely close to Palmer Ridge's effort.
The boys race ran in similar fashion, except that solo runner way out in front wore the gray of Palmer Ridge (more about gray singlets in a moment folks). Eric Hamer had gapped the field by one-quarter mile and only continued to expand his gap around the loops of the Monument Valley Park course. His 15:39 would be 49 seconds ahead of second.
In the earliest stages of the race, it was all about Palmer Ridge. If you saw the race at one-half mile, you had to have been thinking that a perfect score was well within the realm of possibility.
As it turned out, Palmer Ridge only missed the #2 of a perfect score. Behind Hamer's first were Andrew Rudnicki in third, Thomas Herebic in fourth, and Jeremy Meadows in fifth. TCA's Tanner Norman broke up the Palmer Ridge line of perfection with a second.
And, for a while, even Norman's second seemed unlikely. At the final turn back to the south with about six-tenths of a mile to go, Norman was in fourth and appeared to be losing ground to all three Palmer Ridge harriers in front of him. Norman, managed to turn that around before the end, however, and finished six seconds up on Rudnicki for second.
For the second year in a row, the front of the 4A Region 2 boys race was dominated by gray singlets. This year, the top 16 places belonged solely to Palmer Ridge, The Classical Academy, and Air Academy--and, it would be remiss to fail to note that nine of those 16 places to Palmer Ridge. And, since all three schools wear predominantly gray singlets, a lot of folks took to checking their monitors to see if the color had gone out of their cross country race. If they'd been around last year, however, they would have known it's how things go in this region. Last year, gray also claimed the top 16 places, though in a somewhat different distribution.
Next year, perhaps, more color?