Rebuild? Not quite. Battle Mountain return with their sights set on dominating once again.
So many possibilities...
In looking at the individual race, that's what shades over my mind.
There are two ways to look at the race. We can look at how the race played out last year, or we can look at what happened during the track season.
When it comes down to it, this is a race that will be decided on race-day. Who can show up when it matters the most?
Palmer Ridge's Isabella Prosceno is the top returner. She finished second last year, and is clearly hungry for a state title. She backed that up with a fourth-place finish in the 3,200 at state in May. If we're only taking last year's state meet result into mind, she's the clear favorite. She finished second on the right day, and is the top returner, showing that she showed up when it mattered the most.
Based on last year's state results, Air Academy's Paige Embaugh and Tatum Miller could make a run for it. Additionally, they'll add to the team race, but we'll get to that later.
But then there's the track season to add to this equation...
Liberty Ricca has got to be viewed as one of the favorites. I write "one" because there appears to be a few. Ricca finished 17th at last year's state championships, and based on that performance, is the No. 15 returner, but, she dominated the 3,200 at state this May. She clearly made some massive gains and deserves to be part of the conversation of who will take the title in October.
Joslin Blair is another potential threat. The Eagle Valley junior finished seventh last year, and is the No. 5 returner, but the second part of the equation - the track season - is where she enters the equation. She won the 1,600 at state, and was third in the 3,200.
Someone who left one last good race on the table in 2017 was Niwot's Taylor James. The incoming sophomore tallied a stellar cross country season, but had an off day at state, finishing 28th. She turned that around during the track season, however, winning the 800 state title, and finishing eighth in the 1,600.
And then there's the wild card, dark horse, whatever you want to call it: Maggi Congdon. Congdon was fourth last year in 3A, and she won 3A state titles 800 and the 1,600. She's moving up in classification, but winning is winning, and she's proven that she knows how to get it done.
We can't talk about the team race without mentioning Battle Mountain. Last year they were third at NXN, and they dominated the state. Lizzy Harding, Naomi Harding, and Grace Johnson all return. Everyone will be eyeing them this year.
After Battle Mountain, the team race looks somewhat up for grabs. It'll really come down to who shows up on the right day - State.
Air Academy, Palmer Ridge, and Niwot should be in the hunt. On paper Air Academy looks to have the best shot at finishing second. They've got Embaugh and Miller returning as their 1-2 punch. Likewise, Palmer Ridge could be stealing the most coveted numeral in the team race - 1 - if Prosceno can take one more step up on the podium on October. Niwot has a full team, though the one thing they'll need if they want a top-three finish at state is a front-runner. And this is where James comes in. She had a stellar track season. If she can carry that on into the fall, Niwot could really turn some heads.