The 5A Girls race could easily be the most exciting of any classification when the state track and field meet convenes on Thursday.
Author's note: This is the first installment in a series of following-the-state-meet-articles. I doubt I'll have time to write one for each classification and gender, but we'll touch on each of the most intriguing team races.
In what follows, we will take you chronologically through the 5A Girls state meet, discussing each of the events and many of the athletes who figure to play prominent roles in determining this year's team state title.
The major team contenders are Fort Collins, Pine Creek, and Cherokee Trail. That doesn't mean it's impossible for any other team to win it, just that any reasonably objective analysis is going to land on these three teams as the primary contenders. And so, they will be the focus--though not exclusively so--of this article.
Triple Jump - Under the general heading of we-might-as-well-get-things-started-in-a-big-way,tThe triple jump should be the first event started, possibly the first event completed, and likely the first points on the board for 5A girls. The psychological advantage of striking early and big is not to be discounted, and the advantage, or at least the possibility of it, lies squarely in Cherokee Trail's corner. CT has the #1, #3, and #8 seeds in the triple jump in Amazing Ashby, Sydnee Larkin, and Aumni Ashby. On the other hand, Pine Creek isn't exactly shooting blanks. The Eagles counter with Amelia Harvey (#4) and Dakota Divich (#9). The Lambkins have no wool in this battle. Recent momentum would seem to ride in CT's corner here. For Pine Creek, it will be critical that they do not fall behind the 19-7 projected point accumulation for the two teams here. For Cherokee Trail, a great start here could do much the same for their title hopes that a great start did for Fort Collins last year.
All Pine Creek and Cherokee Trail jumpers fall into the second flight, so you don't have to be there right at 8:30 to make sure you're not missing anything that could help determine a team state title.
SMR8 Prelims - This one could actually roll off the track before the Pine Creek and Cherokee Trail girls start jumping in the triple jump. All three of the main contenders are in the field and none are locks to make the finals. As you should know about the SMR8, about 90% out the outcome hinges on who runs your 400 leg. And, it doesn't have to be the same person in prelims as finals. It's a likely scenario that all three teams try to be a little cagey here and slip into finals without a full burn. A #9 seed into finals is as good as gold. What they're up against, though, in that kind of plan is a slate of teams for whom this event may be a big part of their state meet and they don't have to worry about conserving resources early toward a massive title run. So, none of Pine Creek, Fort Collins, and Cherokee Trail can afford to take this one casually and count on slipping into finals. Sprint depth is critical here, but all three teams have a decent stable of talent to shuffle around.
100 Meter Prelims - This should be a perfunctory exercise in advancing forward for Ally Watt, Shayna Yon, and Audra Koopman. It is a huge blow to the title hopes of her team if any of the three does not advance. CT has some hope of advancing a second to 100 finals in Haley Rogers. It's a plus for CT if Rogers does advance to finals but probably not the end of CT's title hopes if she doesn't.
4x200 Meter Relay Prelims - The triple jump could be in the books by the time this one has started. This one is really a lot like the 100 in terms of team title hopes. All three major players should advance and without going deep into the tank to do so. Indeed, they are the top three seeds. All is good for all three teams if they advance to finals. It's a major blow to title hopes if any of the three fail to advance. False starts, bobbled exchanges, and out of zone are things to be avoided at (almost) all cost here.
100 Hurdles Prelims - Pine Creek and Fort Collins are going to have to be content to stand at the fence and watch this one. Without an outstanding group of hurdlers, CT will be looking to get one, and maybe two, of Amazing Ashby and Amanda Andrews into finals. It kind of makes you wonder if CT goes roaming through the hallways for kids with AA initials to run hurdles for them, doesn't it? In any case, this event is pretty important for CT. One to finals keeps them on track. Two to finals puts them ahead. None to finals hurts the cause.
400 Meter Prelims - This one is almost as big as the 100 in shaping the team title race. Becca Schulte is the top seed and Ft. Collins could use those 10 points. Advancing to finals should be a non-issue for Schulte. If you watched state two years ago, you have some idea how good Ally Watt is at 400 meters, but that's not part of her state meet plan this year. Pine Creek's 400 hopes rest on the shoulders of Heide Baron. Baron seeds sixth and should move on to finals; at least her season times say so. CT has three outside lanes kind of seeds and if they can steal so much as one slot into finals, that counts as a plus for the Cougars.
High Jump - Anastacia Johnston of CT is the only representative of the big three in this event. Johnston is on the bubble as far as scoring points is concerned. It's big for CT if she does. It could be big for FC and/or PC if she doesn't. But, check in now and then, anyway, because you don't want to miss the Ashlyn Hare/Mackenzie Pettit/Kiara Kearney show.
Shot Put - This comes down to Emma Dern and Sydney Marr, and points will go on the board when this one is over. Emma Dern projects as a low scorer here based on Colorado marks for the season. If, however, she can reprise her mark from Arcadia, it's not at all unthinkable that Dern walks away to winner of this thing. She has, however, a couple of cross-town rivals in Gabriella McDonald and Taira Cottingham who are likely to be disinclined to let that happen. Brooke Pemberton might want to get in on that action, too. If Sydney Marr can sneak a point or two for Pine Creek here, that's the kind of serendipity that could set off a nice chain of events for Pine Creek for Friday and Saturday.
4x800 Meter Relay - There are no prelims in this event. It's 18 teams shoehorned onto the track for all the marbles all at once. Fort Collins owns the #3 seed and this is a great opportunity for them to showcase their distance depth and aid the cause. CT has only the remotest hopes of scoring in this one against a very strong field of top teams. Pine Creek rides the bench for this one.
200 Meter Prelims - The 5A day closes out with 200 meter dash prelims. While this event may not be symbolically as important as the 100, there are actually more points at stake here than in the 100. Pine Creek will be aiming at advancing both Baron and Watt. CT will be hoping to advance a trio of Yon, Rogers, and Larkin. Fort Collins rests their hopes on Schulte, suggesting that Koopman will be doing some serious relay duty. It's entirely possible that all six advance, but seeds suggest Larkin is the least likely of the six to advance. Each team will be looking for good things to happen here.
4x100 Meter Relay Prelims - If you don't yet have the picture, get it now: sprint relays are critical to the title hopes of each of FC, CT, and PC. Each team needs to advance out of prelims, and each team should. Once again, they are the top three seeds. But not advancing out of 4x100 prelims is as simple as one sloppy exchange, let alone a dropped baton or an out-of-zone violation.
3200 Meters - CT has nobody in this race. It will be the Cougars' turn to stand aside and watch for once. There are reasons why you run the race on polyurethane and not on paper, but Lauren Gregory is a prohibitive favorite to win this one. This is as close to 10 points in the bank as anything gets before the state meet ever starts. Pine Creek's Kaleigh Kroeker is entered as the #18 seed, but it won't come as a huge surprise to anyone (excepting, possibly, folks from Pine Creek) if she ends up not toeing the line for this start (it easily may come down to choosing between this one and the 800 a couple hours later). If she does run, her history suggests she is capable of scoring here.
300 Meter Hurdles Prelims - This race takes on slightly elevated interest for these teams with Carly Lester out of the field. Zoe Gilbertson ranks as the favorite, but Mackenzie Howie is hardly far enough behind to be no more than an afterthought. For this race, though, it's just about advancing to finals, and Howie figures to do that easily enough. Once again, CT has one looking to squeeze into finals. This time around, it's Amanda Andrews.
800 Meters - Lauren Gregory is seeded third here, but could have a very large chip on her rather small shoulder coming into this race after last year. I don't know that Jordyn Colter is catchable here, but Gregory is definitely a contender for second. Fort Collins would be delighted, I think, with eight points here. CT has nobody in the race, and we'll see what takes place with Kaleigh Kroeker (see comments, above, about the 3200). In any case, it's bonus territory if Pine Creek comes out of this one with points.
Long Jump - The lone Friday field event for 5A Girls is the long jump. And this event has enormous state title implications. Any of Audra Koopman (FC), Sydnee Larkin (CT), Shayna Yon (CT), Amelia Harvey (PC), and Dakota Divich (PC) is capable of winning this thing. It's a fickle event, as in, "How well are you finding the board today?" It's impossible to project how the points will fall here, so you'd better just show up and watch. Most of the action of interest should happen in the second flight and finals, but Madelyn Bollig has some potential to work her way into finals from the first flight. And it would be a bonus for Fort Collins if she did.
4x200 Meter Relay Finals - Assuming all three teams advance out of prelims, there is a bundle at stake in the finals here. Although technically later on the schedule, it's likely this final runs before the second flight of the long jump, so overlapping athletes should not be conflicted. It would be nice if this event doesn't have that kind of distraction. CT counts as your favorite here, so it's a bonus for FC or PC if they can bump the Cougars off the pedestal.
4x400 Meter Prelims - The day ends with 4x400 prelims. Once again, this one is important to all three teams. Seeing as the three teams own three of the top four seeds, it will be surprising if any of the three don't advance to finals.
We hope all three teams are left in the hunt by the time Saturday rolls around, but the way of sporting events suggests it's likely that a team may have had a wheel or two come off by this point. It's impossible to project now, though, where that might happen, so we'll continue our discussion into Saturday events as if all three teams are on track.
100 Meter Hurdles Finals - Only CT has a chance to score here, and that, of course, hinges on what happens in prelims. But, pulling five or more points here would be a strong positive for the CT team title bid. Anything less than that helps keep hopes alive for FC and PC. But, it's also worth pointing out here that there will be little shifts (plus and minus) of points all across the board on Saturday. So, it makes no sense to lose too much sleep over what does or doesn't happen point-wise in this event alone.
100 Meter Finals - Showdown time! You know how big this one is already without being told. It is big in terms of points, and perhaps even bigger symbolically. I'm not sure it's possible to pick a favorite at this point, which is part of why the event is so huge symbolically.
400 Meter Finals - Though not as big symbolically as the 100, we've already stated this one could be bigger in terms of points. If any team takes a beating at both 100 and 400, their state title hopes are almost assuredly done. Pine Creek scores some psychology points if Heide Baron rises strongly above her #6 seed. Fort Collins keeps fingers crossed that Schulte holds onto the #1 seed. CT hopes to have a face in finals to score some points.
200 Meter Finals - Here's hoping we're seeing Baron, Watt, Schulte, Yon, and Rogers holding onto their seeds out of prelims and advancing to finals. If so, and if all three teams are more or less on schedule to this point, this has a lot of potential to be a make-or-break event for at least one of the big three schools. Watt probably counts as the favorite here and Pine Creek more or less needs the win here.
Pole Vault - Chances are, you won't be running into any Fort Collins, Cherokee Trail, or Pine Creek folks at the pole vault. So, if you need a break from some of the intensity, this might turn out to be a great place to hang out for a few minutes.
Discus - Sydney Marr is an improved thrower this year and she has a great opportunity to help her team cause here. Marr comes in as a #6 seed, but you also know seeds don't mean all that much in the discus. A big day for Marr is a big day for Pine Creek. Kelly Ervin has an outside shot at scoring for Fort Collins here.
4x100 Meter Relay Finals - Is it critical? Yes, it should be? Is it possible to say who will still have legs enough underneath them to win this thing? No, it's not. By this stage of the game, each of the three teams will have already asked a lot of their top athletes.
1600 Meters - We've spoken already about a possible chip on Gregory's shoulder. That chip could carry over to this event as well, but, even for Gregory's kind of talent, running down Jordyn Colter figures to be a very tall order. This event also looms large for Kaleigh Kroeker. If she brings her Pueblo Twilight race to Jeffco Stadium, it's a good thing for Pine Creek title hopes. Fort Collins also puts Devynn Miller on the track here in hopes of landing a few points. CT must stand at the fence and watch this one.
4x400 Meter Relay Finals - If the outcome is still in question at this point and each of the three teams made it to finals, each team can take comfort in the fact that they have the kind of 4x400 that can step onto the track and win the thing. And wouldn't that make for a grand finish?