As good as Cheyenne Mountain and Palmer Ridge are, we're going with Air Academy as the preseason favorite. This may end up unseating the Northern as the toughest 4A league in the state this fall.
Air Academy - If you look strictly at returning runners here, you aren't seeing the whole picture, even as good as that partial picture is. Air Academy returns three bona fide quality runners in Katie Rainsberger, Kayla Wiitala, and Lilli Hamilton. But, they also bring in one of the very best freshman classes in the state in Jessica Luedtke, Mackenzie Moss, and Paige Embaugh. And, who knows, maybe there's someone else in that freshman class I'm not yet clued in about. In short, you lead off with the best runner in 4A and close out without a hint of a weak link in the scoring order. This team will be trouble from the first meet of the season.
Palmer Ridge - So, how would you feel after finishing third in state last year, bringing most of your team back, and you can't even swing favorite status in your own league? A little chafed perhaps? If the Bears come into the season with a chip on their shoulder, now you understand why. The Bears line up five sub-6 1600s from spring in Rachel Cunneff, Emily Croft, Audree Furst, Ally Herebic, and Hannah Capek, so nobody will be slipping by this team with ease.
Cheyenne Mountain - The Indians are another team worthy of a whole bunch of respect. Cheyenne Mountain is deeply talented at 1 and 2 with Madison Lambros and Veronica Brtek. Alaina Geibig isn't far behind. Brooke Kincaid likely finds her way into the scoring portion of the roster this fall as well after showing enormous improvement in track in the spring. Depth doesn't appear to be an issue in this program. Cheyenne Mountain would start the season as favorites in a lot of other leagues.
Discovery Canyon - Beth DeLaurell is back, but the Thunder have a new coaching regime to figure out and will be missing a couple key graduates from last fall. An unforgiving league requires a quick learning curve for this fall's team. Lianna Ubungen looks like an excellent candidate to step into a more prominent role this fall.
Lewis-Palmer - The Rangers don't appear to have the best team in school history, but they should be soundly improved over last fall--if, that is, they get a couple key competitors from track out for cross country this fall. Lindsey Purdham and Elizabeth Beagle showed excellent potential to be cross country difference makers for the orange and black. Brooke Taylor, last year's top returning runner, did not run track in the spring but should be back for the fall campaign.
Vista Ridge - Ashley Polk is solid in the front runner position, but there are four places in the scoring order to be resolved immediately behind her. The Wolfpack returns nobody but Polk with a sub-23 resume.
Sand Creek - Maia Austin occupies much the same position for Sand Creek that Ashley Polk does for Vista Ridge. The difference here, though, is that Austin didn't run in track season for the Scorpions.
Falcon - The Falcon girls will be looking to match the recent resurgence of the Falcon boys, but their starting point for this fall will be with Melissa Budd and Hanna Diaz as the only returning sub-24s. Finding or developing more punch in the scoring five will be a high priority for the fall.