It's not precisely clear yet to whom the Arvada West mantle of leadership will pass this fall, but Max Sevcik is certainly one of the candidates. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Go ahead, take your pick of top teams in this league. My guesses--and they are all of that--follow below:
Arvada West - It's difficult to ignore a team that continues to simply get better and better. The Wildcats have weathered a graduation or two along the way yet still continue to get better. This year, the task is replacing Joe Horen, but they seem to be up to that as well. Max Sevcik and Josh Campbell came out of cross country season looking to be this fall's leaders. They didn't do anything to diminish those expectations in the spring, but Colin Berndt showed how much difference a half-year of maturity can make in a freshman and made his case as a Wildcat to watch closely in the spring. What happens at 4 and 5 this fall will tell the story of how far this team goes.
Dakota Ridge - The Eagles came out of cross country season last fall with a solid future ahead of them. Joe Berg leads the pack, and leads it well. Benton Meldrum and Skyler McMullen fall in behind Berg at a close distance. Through the first three, Dakota Ridge is giving a little ground to Arvada West, but this is a team that could earn it back at 4 and 5. Braden Mattson had a very abbreviated track season this spring, and it's a solid bonus for DR if he's back at full strength this fall. Bryce Leschak is another who will be looking to fill one of the 4-5 slots.
Pomona - It's very difficult to put the Panthers at #3, and they certainly might not stay there. Gone are Marcelo Laguera and Gavin Mason, but back is Ernest Franssen. And the rumor mill has been telling me this summer that Patrick McKenzie, the top Arvada High School runner from last year, has transferred to Pomona. Stir that into a recipe that already includes Franssen and Vincent Workman and you have a team that should--at least by the second half of the season--go three deep very nicely. Like Arvada West, the story of this team will be told in how strong they go at 4 and 5. Last year, it was a 4-5 gap that hamstrung the Panthers.
Ralston Valley - By now, you may be getting the picture that cross country is going pretty well in Arvada. These teams should be beating on each other a lot in the fall. Ralston Valley's contribution will be a team led by Braden Bohling and Logan Olin. Both ran well last fall and supported that with nice track seasons this spring. Gavin Jones, only a freshman last fall, showed some steady gains in track this past spring and should be counted on to carry his share of the load this fall. Nathan Hodges will be a senior this fall and could be a big key for this team. Ralston Valley will look for a #5 to step up and complete the scoring order. Correction: I am informed Logan Olin graduated this spring, so he will not be back to be part of Ralston Valley cross country this fall. That puts RV in a more difficult position than I had anticipated, but the position assigned here still seems like the correct ordering.
Bear Creek - Senior Ryan Waugh should be at the front of the pack for the Bears this fall. August Roberts, who missed last cross country season, gave every indication of being back on top of his race during track season. Gabe Oliver checked in as a sub-5 1600 this spring. This is a team trending in the right direction, but it may take another year to get to the level of the top four.
Lakewood - Freshman Chase Dornbusch introduced himself in a big way to Jeffco 5A in track this spring. He didn't run cross country in the fall, which could mean a whole lot of different things. But, if he's wearing a cross country singlet in the fall, that's big news for the Tigers. Luke Klatke and Dean Lugsch provide experience and some additional strength up front.
Columbine - It's hard to know exactly where to place this team, and the proper placement may not be nearly this far toward the bottom of the league. Based on returning runners from last year, Columbine checks in at third in the league, with sub-18s in Jerod Kuhn, David Blair, and Jack Sagrillo. But, Kuhn and Sagrillo weren't seen in track season, and Columbine generally struggled to keep up with the rest of the league in distance events. So, there are a few questions loitering on Columbine's corner of the block. It may turn out that those questions have answers, but we'll have to wait and see how those answers play out.
Chatfield - The Chargers return no sub-19s, no sub-5s, and Joshua Cooper is the only returning sub-11. That's a rough place to begin in a league this tough. It looks like a year of development for the Chatfield crew and building on triumphs as opportunities arise.