With only a quarter mile to go, Sydney Scott keeps her race out in front of her pursuers. Photo by Jeff McCoy.
The 4A girls was a long exercise in chasing Sydney Scott. Nobody wanted to share the lead with Scott, but all knew it would be disastrous to fall behind her as well. For a few, that meant hanging on until all energy was spent and falling off the pace late in the race. For others, it meant staying in contention to the end, but the hope of Scott opening a door to let them by never materialized. Niwot's Elise Cranny finished six seconds back in 18:58, but never could close things down tight enough to make a serious run at Scott.
In short, this race was wall-to-wall Sydney Scott, giving Lyle Knudson trained athletes two (at least?) state titles on the day.
While Scott was doing her thing at the front of the field, however, a very interesting team competition was shaping up behind her. Not since 2005 have Thompson Valley and Mountain View been this closely matched. Back then, Kyle Chandler was coach of the Mountain View team and Thompson Valley's girls were the usurpers. Kyle Chandler has gone on to things musical, and Thompson Valley has more or less had run of the town (at least within the 4A ranks, but often beyond that as well) ever since.
Until this year, that is.
Kevin Clark's new look Mountain Lions were enjoying a solid season but were having trouble solving the riddle of beating Thompson Valley. That puzzle waited until the regional meet to be unlocked.
So, going into state, Thompson Valley Matt Norton had the unenviable task of restoring perspective to a team wholly unaccustomed to taking a loss to a local rival. Whatever the stratagems employed to restore the equlilibrium were, they appear to have worked well.
But that doesn't mean there weren't a few nail-biting moments at state.
TV's Karina Ernst was first of the two rival teams' members to make her way down the finish straight, finishing third overall in 18:58. And then came a long wait as runners from schools not expected to be the strongest team title contenders streamed through: Aubrey Till from Canon City, followed by Allie Morgan of Discovery Canyon, followed by more.
Finally a black uniform with purple lettering (a combination a little unkind to my aging eyes) came into view. Inside that uniform was Mountain View's Riley Cooney, moving down the corridor between the lines of snow fencing with an urgency known only to those competing for a state title. TV's Hayley Berg followed about 15 seconds, but only two places, behind Cooney.
Next came McKayla Gray and Kayla Smith of Mountain View, although Smith would pass Gray just before finish line and so reverse their order of finish.
And suddenly, partly cloudy seemed to be turning to overcast for Thompson Valley. A repeat of last week's narrow defeat to Mountain View appeared to be in the offing. But that judgment would be made too quickly.
Two freshmen, Megan Irvine and Kacie Kaufman, got Thompson Valley back into the thick of things. And when junior Lauren Anderson crossed in 60th at 21:02, Mountain View's hopes expired. Although Mountain View brought the very next runner across the line, the 33-55 gap won by Thompson Valley at #4 (Kacie Kaufman) provided the largest share of the final margin.
For 2011, a resurgence in fortunes and a second-place trophy would have to suffice as the measure of Mountain View's best season in years. The lineup is young--three of the top four are freshmen--and so we expect we'll be hearing a great deal from Mountain View in the near future.
Cheyenne Mountain, last year's state champion, and Battle Mountain (the team that beat both Thompson Valley and Mountain View in 2005) finished third and fourth, respectively. Like Mountain View, both of these teams figure to be serious contenders again next year.