Soleil Gaylord has spent a lot of time running by herself this fall. Can she continue that into State?
The state cross country previews begin with this installment of 2A. Each of these will follow the same pattern--a page for the boys and a page for the girls, though not necessarily in that order.
Let's cut straight to the chase and go to 2A Girls!
2A Girls State Preview
Top Teams In the Hunt: Paonia, Nederland, Shining Mountain Waldorf, Lyons
What Does Each Team Need?
Lyons - The Lions don't have a take-charge kind of front runner. Georgia Barone figures to be at the front of the pack for Lyons, but she probably doesn't figure to be among the five individual finishers. So, Lyons needs Barone to go as low as she can and they very much need to keep the pack time down, with 2 and 3 coming quickly on Baron's heels. That looks like Kylie Udovich and Katie Fankhouser, but Madeline Watts could figure here as well. And, every place Lyons' #4 can push back another team's #3 helps the Lyons cause.
Nederland - Between Helen Cross and Sarah Davidson, Nederland rivals Crested Butte for the best 1-2 in the entire 2A Girls field. But, Nederland appears to be substantially stronger than Crested Butte at #3. Still, shrinking the 2-3 gap is a huge priority for Nederland heading into State. If Nederland can get their #3 (either Meg Feeley or Elysia Nitsch) into the top 20, the state title comes a whole lot closer.
Paonia - All along, we thought we knew what Paonia had and it probably wasn't going to be quite enough. Then along comes the regional meet and we get introduced to Tawnee Roberts. Roberts and Katya Schwieterman (in some order) make Paonia much stronger up front that just Schwieterman. Still, we know Roberts runs well on the Delta Speedway, but we don't know how she handles the hills of Bear Creek Regional Park. Brooke Hillman (who should handle the hills of BCRP just fine) looks to be a solid #3. Paonia is definitely a more potent force than they appeared to be two weeks ago, but there are a lot of unknowns. They're a lot like Lyons right now, only without the track record.
Shining Mountain Waldorf - In terms of a team with a lot of upside potential, SMW is a very good team. They haven't quite put it all together in a single meet this season, but every knowledgeable coach in the field knows this is a team you want to be careful not to overlook. Emma Schaefer should get the scoring started with a top-five kind of finish. A big day for Abby Leuchten and Tess Leuchten could mean the Lions win it all.
Wrap your head around this idea--Soleil Gaylord has never won an individual state championship in cross country. I have no idea how it's gone three years without that happening, but be sure that she means to fix that situation before she graduates. All signs of the season point to Gaylord winning. And, if she does win, it's immaterial to the team race as she will not be scoring as part of a team this fall.
Chloe Veilleux won the individual title last fall and definitely figures to be among the top medalists this year, but the end of her season this year is not showing the same trajectory as the end of her season last year. Veilleux, though, will be part of a scoring team this fall, and that extra motivation could help here.
Sydney Petersen and Helen Cross are, realistically speaking, the only other two in the hunt.
Petersen has been well back of Gaylord the last couple of times they met, so there's some serious ground to be made up there.
Cross is a bit of a wild card. Her times are a bit deceiving in that Nederland hasn't been frequenting fast courses. The BCRP course should play to Cross's favor, but that favor is diminished when you realize the other top candidates are from places like Oak Creek, Telluride, and Crested Butte. In other words, everyone here should be used to dealing with hills.