Lauren Gregory ran essentially unchallenged to last year's state title. That's not how the script is setting up this year. Photo by Alan Versaw.
We've already begun to discuss this in the 10 Questions for State article, but 5A Girls has two major questions to answer on Saturday. Who will win the individual contest? And who will win the team contest? Both of those questions should keep us squarely on the edges of our seats until race time.
The individual title appears to come down to Lauren Gregory, Allie Chipman, and Brie Oakley. If you like experience, you like Lauren Gregory (though, interestingly, none of the three have race experience on the current configuration of the state course). If you like big-race mettle, you are impressed with what Allie Chipman laid down at Woodbridge back in September. If you like a fresh face to stir the pot of expectations, you have to like Brie Oakley.
Suffice it to say all three bring a fair bit of pressure with them to the state meet on Saturday. Allie Chipman is undefeated in four races this season. Lauren Gregory is undefeated in four races this season. Brie Oakley also has four wins on the season, but has been defeated once each at the hands of Chipman and Gregory. The consensus of opinion, though, is that Oakley has become a better racer since (and probably also on account of) those defeats.
All three have shown a propensity to go to the front and dare others to go with them. This could easily turn out to be the most interesting state race we have seen in years. Maybe as good as Cranny-Rainsberger 2012, only with three instead of two.
And, once the individual title gets settled, it will be a mad rush for the remaining medals. The list of contenders there is lengthy, but most certainly includes Megan Mooney, Catherine Liggett, and Kacey Doner. It includes more, of course, but there comes a question of where you start drawing the line. Last year's 2-3-4 of Maya Browning, Claudia Burgess, and Holly Bent will be hard-pressed to repeat that finish this year, and it could be that not even all of the three will be running this year. Will Devon Peterson be able to push her way into the top five? That question looms even larger, perhaps, in the team scoring.
Questions abound about the individual order of finishers.
As interesting as the individual questions are, cross country is fundamentally a team sport. And there is a huge team issue to be settled as well.
Do you like the best Cherry Creek team in years? And maybe the best Cherry Creek team ever?
Do you like a Broomfield team that, despite a very real possibility of having nobody in the medals on Saturday, has a sensational pack time and has been showing every indication of being the kind of team that can show up on state meet day and lay down the law? These are girls who haven't been on this kind of stage before, but their coach has and that's an important observation to be made.
Or, do you like a Mountain Vista girls team that is rapidly catching up with the boys team? Mountain Vista packs well, though probably not quite as well as Broomfield. But, when Allie Chipman is your #1, you don't have to pack quite as well as Broomfield.
It will be a stunner if one of the three above teams doesn't claim the title, but Fairview and Monarch aren't exactly out of the hunt yet. Both, however, would need exceptional performances across the board to bridge up to where the big three are sitting.
High school cross country just simply doesn't get much better than this.