Niwot's Samrawit Dishon is one of a few Colorado runners who could challenge for the individual title.
How To Get To Portland: Finish as one of the top-five individuals (excludes runners on qualifying teams)
The individual race will be unique, as it's likely that those who qualify individually for Nationals won't know until after the team race is scored (unless they're in the top five overall), because there are quite a few top individuals on teams that might qualify.
A year ago Cherry Creek's Riley Stewart took the final individual ticket to Nationals, running 17:18 to finish seventh. This year she's stormed over every course, and is in the prime position to extend her season another two weeks (three if she decides to do the Footlocker double like last year...)
The Cherry Creek sophomore has been incredibly consistent, winning five of six races this season. Her only loss was a runner-up finish to US No. 6 Sydney Thorvaldson from Wyoming at Liberty Bell.
Stewart's personal best this season came here in Colorado, at altitude, and it was a stellar 17:05 clocking at the Cherry Creek Steve Lohman Invite - that's the fastest time run by a Colorado girl this year - in or out of the state. Additionally, she's been undefeated against Colorado runners this season.
She won every race in dominating fashion - including the 5A state cross country title last month - her first. In the latest MileSplit 50 Rankings, she's sitting No. 12.
And if she's got company Saturday, and she will, it'll likely come from Desert Vista (AZ) freshman Lauren Ping, who ran 16:49 at Desert Twilight.
Stewart and Ping haven't raced once this season, so it's difficult to compare. The one addition to Ping's running resume that Stewart doesn't have is a Sub-17 clocking, though one thing Stewart has over Ping, is her consistency.
While Stewart is one of the favorites to win the individual race, Colorado has quite a few more vying for one of those coveted Top Five individual spots.
Of additional note - Stewart runs for Cherry Creek, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the Southwest region. If the team qualifies, Stewart won't be counted as one of the five individual qualifiers.
In the mix of favorites, and likely to be in the top-five, and like Stewart - on a team that may qualify, Niwot's Samrawit Dishon has run this course before, and clearly enjoys it.
The 4A state cross country champ ran 17:08 at Desert Twilight in late September, and was Colorado's top finisher that night, and she's won her last two outings - regionals, and state.
Stewart and Dishon haven't raced each other this season, though it's of note that Dishon's 18:11 4A victory at the state meet was just one second ahead of Stewart's 18:12 5A victory.
Then there's Eagle Valley's Samantha Blair, who finished four seconds behind Dishon at Desert Twilight, running 17:12, and four seconds behind her at State, running 18:15. That gives Dishon a 2-0 lead in the series over Blair.
What could be beneficial for Blair in this scenario is that if Niwot nabs one of the qualifying spots for NXN, Dishon's individual finish would be taken out of the equation, opening up the door for another Colorado girl to head to Portland.
While Dishon owns a perfect record over Blair, another runner looking to nab a qualifier that won't need it if her team qualifies is Cherokee Trail's Cameron McConnell.
McConnell was just one second behind Blair, and four behind Dishon at Desert Twilight, running 17:13. Additionally, she finished second to Stewart at State, running 18:24. Right there, Colorado has four runners that have run 17:13 or faster this season...
And if there's one runner to really keep an eye on, it's Basalt's Sierra Bower.
The 3A cross country state champ has been on fire this season, and while she's raced mostly on the western slope, she's run fast. She ran 17:40 at the Pantherfest, which was a personal best, and would've nearly cracked the Top 25 of the boy's race. It's the one time she's run on a faster course, as she didn't hit up the traditional Liberty Bell-Desert Twilight tour like most of everyone else heading to Arizona.
She's won seven of eight races, with her only loss being a runner-up finish to Grace Johnson at the Warrior Lincoln Park Classic in late September.
But the one glaring performance that really elevates Bower into the realm of a potential favorite to not just qualify for NXN, but potentially win NXR-Southwest, is her 2019 State performance just over three weeks ago.
Bower nearly cracked 18 on a course that only has seen two sub-18 clockings in recent years. Additionally, Bower's 18:00.1 was the fastest time of the day, and run in the warm afternoon slot.
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