Katie Rainsberger is slated to close out her storied Colorado high school career at 12:30 on Saturday. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Unlike the 4A boy's individual and team races which likely will be toss-ups, the girl's side is more clear-cut. Both story lines here have two words in common -- Air Academy.
Katie Rainsberger, the Air Academy senior, is presently regarded as one of the top five harriers in the U.S. She's looking to put an exclamation point on her already stellar career. After runner-up finishes to Elise Cranny her frosh and soph seasons, Katie brought home the elusive title last fall. She is the overwhelming favorite this season. Piggybacking on an outstanding track season last spring and summer, one highlighted by fast times and top national finishes, the recent Oregon commit has parlayed that success into a brief, yet spectacular cross country season. Quite frankly, the race is hers to lose.
However, stranger things have happened, and if Katie were to be off her game at Norris-Penrose this Saturday there is a host of girls positioned to contend for the title.
The short list of contenders includes D'Evelyn's Lexi Reed and Kayla Young of Denver North. These two are known to be friendly rivals, due to many close races between them. Yet, certainly the friendship will be put aside as both try to stand up to the monumental task of beating Rainsberger. Each won her regional race and is having an excellent campaign.
Also likely to garner some attention are Greta Van Calcar of Palisade and Lauren Offerman of Mountain View, both regional victors as well.
Not to be overlooked are Chantae Steele, the outstanding freshman from The Classical Academy, and Reagan Hausmann from Valor Christian. Also looking for high finishes also will be Mikayla Gaffney from Silver Creek, Elinor Enderle of Canon City, and Ruthie Boyd of Summit.
Rainsberger's Air Academy Kadets are perched firmly atop the favorites list for the team title as well. They were a unanimous choice for the top spot in the final incarnation of the Saucony/Flo 50 Colorado Coaches Poll released Tuesday.
Air Academy thoroughly trounced a strong region last week, one that includes top-five teams Palmer Ridge and The Classical Academy.
Other than Ms. Rainsberger, the Kadets feature a unique mix of young and veteran runners in their top seven. A few of those to be reckoned with include Maria Mettler, Kayla Wiitala, Paige Embaugh, Mackenzie Moss, and Liliana Hamilton.
If Air Academy were to falter, a few teams will be there to charge to a surprise victory. Leading the way would be Battle Mountain, who notched a thoroughly dominant victory at their regional race.
Next in line would likely be Palmer Ridge and TCA, which placed second and third in the highly competitive Region 2 behind Air Academy.
Cheyenne Mountain, as with their male counterparts, looked much better than they had all season in winning their region.
Following suit of their boys' team, the Evergreen Cougars pulled the upset in narrowly defeating (by one point) the highly regarded Wheat Ridge Farmers.
Niwot enjoyed an equally narrow outcome over Centaurus in Region 3.
Last fall's state champion Mountain View and runner-up Thompson Valley finished in those exact positons at their regional last week.
Taking everything into account however, Katie Rainsberger and her hometown Air Academy Kadets should be flying high at the top of the list once results are posted at NPEC.