Aubrey Till, Amelia Evans, and Allie Morgan get another opportunity to mix it up at Thursday's regional meet. Photo by Alan Versaw.
4A Region 1
Teams: Alameda, Arvada, Centaurus, Conifer, D’Evelyn, Denver North, Englewood, Evergreen, Fort Lupton, Golden, Green Mountain, Mullen, Skyview, Valor Christian, Wheat Ridge
The complete team count for this region's girls doesn't quite measure up to the boys. At this point, we can fairly project 10 complete girls teams, meaning that four would advance to state. That count would remain the case even if the count of complete teams goes up or down by one. So, think four teams to state when thinking of 4A Region 1.
And four teams is a bit of a shame when you stop to think about how many quality programs there are in this region.
It starts with Evergreen. Maura O'Brien, Erin Dobey, Sam Skold, that crew. These three, by the way, rank as the top three individuals in the region as well. They've been the region's top team all season long and will likely run that string through regional meets.
Behind Evergreen, though, it gets more intriguing.
Mullen, Centaurus, and D'Evelyn rank as close to a dead heat. All three teams have some speed up front and some reasonable depth. Not surprisingly in a dead heat, the team with the most speed up front (D'Evelyn, in the form of Emily Garnier and Josie Warren) also has the most to be concerned about where depth is concerned. None of these three, however, can afford to rest on the assumption that ranking 2, 3, or 4 in a region sending four to state means their ticket is punched.
That would be because that warm sensation Mullen Centaurus, and D'Evelyn are feeling is the breath of Green Mountain and Golden on their backs. It really is that close. Like D'Evelyn, Green Mountain has speed to burn up front with Emily White and Kat Killingsworth, but they also have questions at #5. And, in a regional race, the deeper you are the better you feel. That said, none of these teams has exceptional depth. Missing a top five runner or having one of the five with a serious off day will be very detrimental to the chances of any of these teams.
Figure that almost any combination of three of the five schools of Mullen, Centaurus, D'Evelyn, Golden, and Green Mountain is possible for completing this region's complement of state-qualifying teams.
4A Region 2
Teams: Broomfield, Erie, Fort Morgan, Frederick, Greeley Central, Longmont, Mountain View, Niwot, Northridge, Roosevelt, Silver Creek, Skyline, Sterling, Thompson Valley, Windsor
Historically, this region is the stuff of legend. This may not be the best year in recent memory, but neither is it far off from that. Fifteen teams should mean that six get in.
Of those six, four seem close to locks. It will be difficult, at best, to displace Thompson Valley, Mountain View, Niwot, or Broomfield. TV and MV, in particular, are state title contenders, led by Karina Ernst and Lauren Anderson (TV), and Riley Cooney and McKayla Gray (MV). Neither does either of these programs have significant issues with depth. Both rosters go deep in names that would score well for any other team in the region. The main question between these two teams will lie in how much they hold back for state. It's a delicate balance between setting up for a surge of confidence coming out of regionals and being as fresh as possible coming out of regionals.
Niwot boasts the region's top runner in sophomore Elise Cranny and plenty of depth. My hunch is that the Cougars go third in the regional race.
Broomfield runs a very balanced roster without a real front-running threat.
Erie, Roosevelt, and Greeley Central make up the remaining circle of top threats to qualify for state (though save a corner of your mind to think about Windsor if they pull out a big race on the day of the regional). Mekenzie Atkins has been having a great season for the Erie Tigers and figures to be the one to set them up to be in a position to cruise through to state. Roosevelt and Greeley Central are two very evenly matched teams. If it comes down to between these two, it should be a very close race. Roosevelt, however, takes a depth advantage over Greeley Central into the regional contest.
As strong as the top teams are in this region, it will be tough for any of the other teams to break through into a state-qualifying position.
4A Region 3
Teams: Air Academy, Denver South, Denver West, Discovery Canyon, Elizabeth, Falcon, J.F. Kennedy, Lewis Palmer, Mitchell, Palmer Ridge, Ridge View Academy, Sand Creek, Thomas Jefferson, Wasson, Woodland Park
This isn't the strongest year in recent memory for this region, but that may actually enhance the competitiveness of the regional race. Several programs here have a shot to advance to state. Currently, only 11 teams appear to be able to run full complements, meaning that only four teams will qualify for state.
Academy District 20 representatives Discovery Canyon and Air Academy lead the pack. Both are strong up front in the persons of Kellyn Roiko and Amelia Evans (Air Academy) and Allie Morgan and freshman Arianna Ross (Discovery Canyon). Both have depth. If it comes down to a battle of depth in the regional race, however, Air Academy probably has a slight edge.
Palmer Ridge and Woodland Park represent the next tier of tams. Palmer Ridge's Ali Deitsch and Heather Gentry rank #4 and #7 in the region, respectively, which puts the Bears in contention with anybody, but the 3, 4, and 5 runners haven't shown the consistenty that their counterparts from Air Academy and Discovery Canyon have. Woodland Park has a tight pack of runners who, if they maintain their pack, should be in a good position to make state.
If things going according to form, those are the teams that will qualify for state. But sometimes things don't go according to form.
Denver South and Lewis-Palmer are both within striking distance if anything goes wrong for any of the season's top four. South's Sydney Scott figures to be the individual winner, but will need some solid support from teammates if the Rebels are to qualify a team for state.
The rest of the teams are in need of a singularly inspired race on Thursday or the season ends for them at Monument Valley Park.
4A Region 4
Teams: Canon City, Cheyenne Mountain, Coronado, Harrison, Mesa Ridge, Pueblo Centennial, Pueblo Central, Pueblo County, Pueblo East, Pueblo South, Pueblo West, Sierra, Vista Ridge, Widefield
The part of Colorado Springs that isn't in 4A Region 3 is in this region. And those schools will go to Pueblo to try to qualify for state. And, judging by where they rank in the region, they should be liking their prospects. With 13 teams currently running full squads in the region, we should see five teams advancing to state.
Defending state champion Cheyenne Mountain, led by Greta Sloan, Nell Crosby, and Liz Stageberg, has a very precarious hold on the title of top team in the region this year. Coronado might not mind writing a different ending to that story and, in Rileigh Darby-McClure, Alexis Work, Lauren Akers, and Shannon Young, they may have enough swift of foot to pull it off.
But, neither Coronado nor Cheyenne Mountain seems to be seriously threatened so far as state qualifying is concerned. Those concerns belong more to the next tier of teams: Vista Ridge, Pueblo South, Pueblo Centennial, Canon City, and Pueblo West.
Of these, Pueblo Centennial has enjoyed the strongest season to date and will be most difficult to dislodge from a state berth. The Bulldogs go very strong four-deep in Gia Palumbo, Emily Perez, Sarah Mize, and Skyler Davis. If these four are healthy on race day, the team in red should be fairly secure.
Assuming Pueblo Centennial is ready to roll, that makes it appear as a four-team race for the remaining two slots. All four have a solid front runner and hopes for adequate depth to solidify by race day. Vista Ridge leads with Lina Arista, Canon City with Aubrey Till, Pueblo South with Jessica Kleven, and Pueblo West with Mattie Jesmain. It's what happens behind these four, however, that really tells the story.
Widefield is a long shot with a great effort on race day.
4A Region 5
Teams: Battle Mountain, Delta, Durango, Eagle Valley, Glenwood Springs, Moffat County, Montezuma-Cortez, *Montrose, Palisade, Steamboat Springs, Summit
This is the region that will kick things off for 4A. Wednesday evening and we will have our first state qualifiers in the fold. With only 11 teams, however, we can't hope for more than four teams to qualify for state.
Durango has been beating up on pretty much everybody on the western slope all season and figures to pack 'em in again at the regional meet. Flat and fast probably isn't Durango's best course, but it's hard to imagine it's enough of a disadvantage to take to Demons down even a place. It's not unthinkable that Durango sticks their entire scoring lineup of seven in the top 15.
Battle Mountain seems to have staked dibs on second. Mandy Ortiz is likely the region's top runner, and the fall-off behind Ortiz isn't much.
Several other teams have designs on the remaining qualifying slots. Delta has quietly been having its best season in years, maybe decades but my recollection doesn't go back that far. Clarissa and Cleo Whiting (twins, I presume) set the tone for the Panthers. It doesn't hurt, either, that Delta gets to run in front of the hometown crowd and on the home course, not that the course is known for its surprising elements.
Moffat County brings an extra runner to the starting line every meet. Her name is Tradition. It would be newsworthy if the Bulldogs missed state. Eryn Leonard leads the group, but Coach Trapp needs a healthy top five to advance because there isn't a lot of gap behind this team.
Glenwood Springs, Montrose, and a surprisingly good Palisade entry are each circling, looking for the opportunity to climb into the regional top four. All three schools have some challenges to overcome in terms of how well their 4s and 5s have scored to date this season, but there's no time to find the solution like the regional meet. Of these schools, Montrose has the advantage of the shortest travel itinerary. Montrose's Dana Shellhorn is a top candidate to advance to state as an individual if her team doesn't make the cut.