Ben Forsee gets to stare down his biggest cross country opportunities yet on Saturday. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Let's hope nobody in 4A is taking anything for granted, because there certainly is no justification for doing so. The two 4A state championships must be earned on Saturday, as it doesn't appear that any of the top teams are in a charitable mood.
On the girls' side, we may have seen a preview of the state title matchup at the 4A Region 2 meet in Lyons. Two points separated Mountain View and Thompson Valley, with both teams down a usual top-five runner. There are probably a lot of girls in Loveland not sleeping real well this week in anticipation of the rematch. Karina Ernst likely gives Thompson Valley a small edge at #1, but Riley Cooney and McKayla Gray likely get it back by #2. And so it goes down the roster. The 4s and 5s on these two teams will gain a new experience in significance on Saturday.
Centaurus may be the team best equipped to give the Lions and Eagles a run for their money. Centaurus has steadily gotten better all season. The roster is short on star power, but long on balance. And that's a good formula heading into the state meet.
Defending state champion Cheyenne Mountain is definitely still dangerous but has struggled in recent meets. The Indians need a big breakthrough to repeat.
Evergreen took individual places 1-2-3 at the regional meet, but couldn't hold off Centaurus for the regional title. The importance of your team's scoring at 4 and 5 only takes on added signicance with a deeper field at the state meet. The Cougars need 4 and 5 to step up big on Saturday, and 1-2-3 to do have the same kind of meet on Saturday they've been having all season.
On a hilly course such as state, Battle Mountain could be a dark horse. Higher altitude training with lots of hill work (the staple of the Battle Mountain system) could pay off big at state.
Nobody has any margin for error. It should be a worth any price of admission. It's astonishing to think that people will shell out $60 for admission to the Broncos' game on Sunday and yet miss this.
Among 4A boys, Broomfield has had the upper hand this season, but it hasn't been an out-of-reach upper hand. The Eagles go five deep very strong, but there are no guarantees that the five you need each have their biggest races at state. If they do, Broomfield will be very tough to beat. If they don't, ...
Thompson Valley has been close behind Broomfield all season. TV figures to place very well at 1 and 2, but they need to close the gap at 3, 4, and 5. If these three guys have huge races on Saturday, anything is possible.
Cheyenne Mountain and Coronado figure to make some noise from down Colorado Springs way, but both teams need to shed some inconsistency in their performances and put all the pieces together. Both teams play in the deep end of the talent pool, so the possibility of a big state meet is there.
Five boys in 4A have rub sub-16 this season and any of the five are potential winners. Only some are more likely than others--assuming a reasonable measure of health on Saturday. Alfredo Lebron, Gus Waneka, Josh Davis, Bryce Gregoire, and Ben Forsee each need to be stepping to the line believing they have a chance. I have my hunches about who will take it out hard and who will want to lay and wait a little, but I won't try to spoil the race for you in advance. Plus, I'd look just plain silly if one of my projected pushers at the front chooses to hold off until the corner at the bottom of the course.
And, if any of these five take it out too hard, there are guys in the next group of five who can make them pay for that indiscretion. Where a closely-contested state championship is at stake, those little exchanges of points could become very important.
Based on more recent performances, my hunch is that the girls race comes down to seven individuals. And I'm well aware that seven isn't narrowing it down much. If I was smarter, I could probably narrow it down to three or four, but I'm not that astute.
Aubrey Till started out like lightning, but it appears the field has caught up with her a little. She's still a potential winner, but unless she's been hiding a lot the last few weeks she won't run away with anything as she did at pre-state.
Sydney Scott and Elise Cranny are dangerous in anyone's book. Amelia Evans, Riley Cooney, Karina Ernst, and Mandy Ortiz will have their chances. Once again, Battle Mountain's Ortiz should find the course well-suited to the kind of training her program does. Amelia Evans has tracked some pretty tough runners through some pretty tough races this season, but hasn't won a meet since the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede on the second weekend of the season. So, how does that play in her head? Does it raise doubts or does it stoke the fire? If she's like most solid runners I've known, it does a little of both. The trick lies in pointing all that inner turmoil in the right direction when the gun goes off.
I'm a little bummed that the 4A girls race comes right after the 3A girls race, when my attention will be relentlessly (and rightfully) tugged in another direction, but this one promises to be more than just a footnote on the day's results.
4A Region 1
4A Region 2
4A Region 3
4A Region 4
4A Region 5