Author's note: This is the second 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 will touch on each of the most intriguing team races.
In what follows, we will take you chronologically through the 1A Boys 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 Springfield, Pikes Peak Christian, Heritage Christian Academy, and Baca County. 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 four teams as the primary contenders. And so, they will be the focus--though not exclusively so--of this article.
Of the big four, Springfield and Pikes Peak Christian are clearly the best-positioned. HCA and Baca County are strong teams but will likely need some help coming their way to keep pace with the other two.
For the uninitiated, "Baca County" is not all of Baca County. That would include, among other things, Springfield (and a fair number of cattle, plus the odd Chihuahuan Raven or two). Rather, Baca County is a conglomeration of the sprawling metropoli of Pritchett, Campo, and Walsh. Take a visit someday; it's a trip worth the experience, and not quite like any other part of Colorado. Be sure, however, to leave Springfield with a full tank of gas.
The first day of state is kind of minimal for 1A, but not non-existent.
Long Jump - Last year's event winner Kyle English just barely got into the field, but still should be considered dangerous. If English has a big day like he's had in the past, everyone else is likely to move back a spot.
Dillon Fisher of Springfield and Jeff Stellingwerf of Heritage Christian Academy are the two representatives of the top teams in this event. Springfield has some margin of error in their state meet plan, but HCA has little or none of that. Heritage Christian needs a big leap out of Stellingwerf. Fisher comes in seeded #4. If he can improve on that seed, it starts the meet out in a nice way for the Longhorns.
Shot Put - The figures as one of Springfield's keystone events in their state title bid. Andy Borunda, Robert Quick, and Keith Tate occupy the #1, 3, and 4 seeds, respectively. Each of the three are 44-footers and seeded better than a foot ahead of fifth. It seems very likely Springfield posts at least 23 points in this event. Of the others in the big four, only Baca County has an entry in the field. Titus Sharpe is seeded #10 and will need to advance on his seed to help his team.
3200 Meters - It's a field of 12, so three get left out of the scoring, and that could end up being important where the team title is concerned. HCA stands strong among the seeds with Luke Gilliland coming in at #1, Isaiah Bowsher at #7, Jason Richard at #10, and Stephen Simmons at #12. HCA has some ground to make up on Springfield and Pikes Peak Christian and this is prime territory to get some of it done. To do that, though, HCA must exceed their seeds, and the more the better. Baca County counters with #2 seed Morgan Crane, 14 seconds back of Gilliland. It's a tough seed to improve on, but Crane should be trying nevertheless. Pikes Peak Christian also has an entry in #9 seed Caleb Johns. PPC needs all they can get here. While the other three teams try to eke out some gains--at least party at each other's expense--Springfield must stand at the fence and observe what goes on.
Things continue at about Thursday's pace on Friday for 1A, with Saturday marking the big day for the small schools.
Triple Jump - Friday morning's lone event runs a little thin for the top 1A contenders. Springfield has #2 seed Evan Waters and HCA has #6 seed Caleb Wickstrom. HCA has more potential to help their overall team standing in this event than Springfield. Moving from second to first for Waters would be huge but seems unlikely with Troy Fritz coming in almost two feet ahead of Waters.
800 Meters - Action starts picking up for 1A in the afternoon with the 800 meters. This event is beyond critical for Heritage Christian Academy. The Eagles have to do well here and go in with seeds 4, 6, and 7 in Gilliland, Simmons, and Richard. Only Baca County has another seed in the field, freshman Matthew Crane at #11. Things are looking bleak for HCA if the come away from this event with less than 10 team points.
4x200 Meter Relay - Relays are the great chess match of 1A. Nobody has enough athletes to load all their relays. And everyone is paying a price somewhere in an individual event to put a top athlete in a relay. Still, you probably can't win the title without showing well in relays. So, you load what relays you can, accept minimal points in relays you qualified but can't load, and hope your loaded relays don't get squeezed out of top points by schools loading the same relay. I have no way of foreseeing which teams will load the 4x200, but it appears this is one Pikes Peak Christian (the #1 seed) is counting on. Springfield and Baca County have entries here. HCA opted out of this event.
Discus - What you read about Springfield in the shot put more or less transfers over to the discus. Sam three guys, same three of the top four seeds. Same high probability of scoring at least 23 points here, but maybe a little less likely her due to the fickle nature of the discus event. There is nothing any of HCA, Baca County, and PPC can do to stop Springfield in the discus ring; none of the three has any qualifiers in the event. Enormous advantage Springfield.
4x800 Meter Relay - Given that Baca County has spread the Crane brothers across three events, it seems very likely they are locking and loading this event. I'd guess that means they're aiming for the 10 spot here. Heritage Christian will definitely have some say about that, but the HCA guys will already have, or at least mostly have, two races on their legs. Both teams need big points here badly. Springfield is the #5 seed and would likely be delighted with anything higher than that.
With both throws coming before Saturday, it's high probable that Springfield enters Saturday's competition with a big lead in the points standings. That means the other teams in the hunt have to tune out the point totals and keep going about business on Saturday. If they get psyched out about Springfield's advantage, it could be game over very early.
Pole Vault - Only PPC stands to gain ground on Springfield here, but they could end up gaining considerable ground with William Harmon and Isaiah Danzik seeded to post 14 points. If they can exceed that 14, it's an enormous early boost for morale and for PPC title hopes.
110 Meter Hurdles - This time, it's Baca County's turn to start gaining ground. JD Chenoweth comes in as the #2 seed, but Springfield will be represented with #6 seed Josh Haddock. This one could tilt either way based on actual outcome.
100 Meter Dash - For better or worse, this is the showcase event of track and field. Everyone who ever ran track has wanted to blast the field in this event. Only a few ever reach that stature. One thing appears evident for this race, however--Pikes Peak Christian is the team to beat. Not just a first, but at second, and then again at third. Michael Braithwaite, Mark Waters, and Seeon Kim are the sprint troika of 1A. Baca County is represented by Dallas Balderas and Springfield by Justin Krieger, but it may take a serious lapse by PPC for any team to make inroads here. HCA sits this one out and waits for better opportunities.
400 Meter Dash - PPC lets up a little on folks temporarily and has only Mark Waters entered in this event, but he is entered as the #1 seed. Springfield counters with Ross Dunlap and Rafe Hutches. Heritage Christian has Jeff Stellingwerf in the field. If anyone can unseat Waters, PPC's chances are hurt significantly. Similarly, Stellingwerf can hurt Springfield's chances by beating Dunlap or Hutches, or both. This event holds great potential to be a momentum shifter.
1600 Meters - In terms of seeds, this one is a tightly-paced field after #1 seed Luke Duggan. That means this races can go a lot of different ways and strength of will is likely to be the biggest factor. Baca County is represented by Morgan Crane, HCA by Gilliland and Richard, PPC by Caleb Johns, and Springfield stands outside the fence and hopes none of the above post really big points.
200 Meters - After a bit of a breather for two of them, Braithwaite, Waters, and Kim return as the top three seeds again here. If they hold those seeds, things are looking very good for PPC. Looking to break PPC's stranglehold on springs will be Balderas (Baca County) and Hutches (Springfield). Any encroachment on PPC's planned 25 points will count as an important chipping away at PPC's title hopes.
High Jump - After seeing much of their end-of-Friday lead dwindle on Saturday, Springfield gets a chance to earn back some margin in the high jump. Though the high jump is not always predictable, Ross Dunlap is a prohibitive #1 seed. And, Dunlap is unbeaten in high jump competition this season. Springfield also has another entry in Justin Self, while Caleb Wickstrom represents HCA. How these latter two finish could end up being pretty important when all the points are totaled.
300 Meter Hurdles - Chenoweth is the #1 seed here, and it's important to any title hopes Baca County has that he holds onto that seed. Luke Friedrich of HCA is the #9 seed, and any improvement he can make on that is big news for his team. Baca and Springfield watch and wait.
4x100 Meter Relay - We assume that PPC loads this one as well, though Waters would be limited to either this relay or the 4x200 unless he scratches some other event. Of the big four, only Springfield contests this one, but the Longhorns could be facing some relay personal issues of their own at this point. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out if there's still some mystery left in the team title race at this point.
4x400 Meter Relay - If Pikes Peak Christian doesn't have it put away before this event, there will be some serious nail-biting when this one hits the track. PPC has a horse in the race, but it would appear their big sprinters are likely to be event limited by the time this one rolls around. It's either that or PPC will be rolling the dice and spreading sprint talent across the relays. Heritage Christian, Baca County, and Springfield will also be contesting this one. It would appear that each of these three teams should be able to stock this relay with reasonably competitive squads, though everyone will be calling on at least a few tired legs at this point. How it all works out is anyone's guess.