On a cold day when a few of Coronado's top guns were taking a break from racing, Andres Luna stepped up and led the Cougars to a big win. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Note: This piece begins the Colorado Track XC championship season previews. In this piece and the 4A girls piece to come, Thompson Valley coach Matt Norton and I share the writing duties. My thoughts follow my photo; Coach Norton's follow his. The order will be inverted for 4A girls.
At first glance, 4A boys looks like a very narrow contest between two schools with adjoining attendance boundaries. North of Bear Creek Regional Park/Norris Penrose Event Center you have Coronado High School. South of BCRP/NPEC you have Cheyenne Mountain High School. How appropriate that the state meet will be held at a point located squarely between the two schools!
Cheyenne Mountain was a known quantity going into the season and their top six are more or less who they were expected to be two months ago. We may or may not have had the relative ordering of Josh Fowler, Zach Kuzma, Ben Fox, and the rest all figured out before the start of the season, but the likely suspects were no mystery.
Coronado was a little harder to nail down before the season started.
Doug Hugill always has a solid team at Coronado, and he had a solid nucleus of experienced guys coming back. But finding space for two high-end transfers, one from Georgia and the other from Fort Morgan, in your scoring five has a way of transforming the possibilities.
At this point, those possibilities are pretty spectacular for the Cougars. Their result against Cheyenne Mountain in last weekend’s Dave Sanders meet would seem to underscore that conclusion.
I hadn’t seen the Coronado team in person this season until Friday evening’s Doherty meet. Even then, I didn’t see the full roster—Bailey Roth, the Eggers, and possibly one or two more weren’t competing on Friday—but I left the meet very impressed nonetheless. In this case, seeing is believing, and I only saw a part of the show. Cheyenne Mountain’s entire varsity roster sat out the meet, but their enthusiasm and fire was evident in the support of their teammates on the course.
In any case, conventional wisdom has this thing narrowed down between Coronado and Cheyenne Mountain, but conventional wisdom makes for a too-short article. And ending the piece here could be interpreted to suggest that the dreams of other teams don’t matter. They do matter, and there’s a reason we run the race before we crown the champion.
So, let’s dig a little deeper.
Down in the southwest corner of the state, you have a cloak-and-dagger kind of operation going at Durango High School. It’s difficult to get a handle on the Demons because there has been nothing in the way of head-to-head competition against Front Range competition since Durango defeated Evergreen at the Joe Vigil meet. But, Durango did put together a nice race last Saturday against top-tier competition at the Desert Twilight meet in Mesa, Arizona.
Broomfield has had their ups and downs this season. This would be in contrast to last fall where they pretty much ran through the season with a scorched earth policy. Whether by design or by some other factor(s), Broomfield has come out very sharp and also kind of flat on different occasions this fall. It’s beyond dispute, however, that the Eagles are a dangerous team.
Thompson Valley showed their first strong signs of life with a solid win at the Sweetheart meet last Friday. Until then, these Eagles were looking a little like a team in search of an identity. October, however, is the right month to come around if you’re looking to time this sort of thing.
TCA is another team that has recently begun to show better than they did earlier. TCA is a young team that figures to be maturing on the fast track over the next three weeks. That learning curve gets interrupted this week, however, as the Titans' move to 4A cross country left them without a league to call home.
The Palmer Ridge Bears have done a little hibernating since Liberty Bell, but pay close attention to how this team runs through the next couple of weeks. Bears tend toward ravenous following periods of hibernation. Their Doherty race on Friday was good, but you had the sense they weren’t yet showing the full set of teeth.
Centaurus figured to be rebuilding after getting socked by graduation in the spring, but the construction project has run well ahead of schedule. The emergence of sophomore Jake Link, joining Chandler Reid up front, has been a key piece in getting the Warriors back on the warpath.
Luis Ronquillo, Daniel Barron, and Jesus Lazo have turned Denver North into a solid contender. The Vikings, however, have hung out mostly at meets loaded with smaller schools, and it’s tough to get a clear read on how they measure against the best of 4A under those circumstances. Perhaps that is intentional?
Evergreen and Pueblo West are two more teams worthy of serious attention. They’re easy to pay attention to because their uniforms stand out. But they’ll be looking to leave an impression that goes well beyond the design of their uniforms over the next three weeks. Also keep an eye open for Ponderosa. Their uniforms don't stand out so much in a crowd, but the Mustangs may be 4A's most improved team this fall.
With the exceptions of Coronado and Cheyenne Mountain, however, every remaining contender faces a common point of uncertainty. All of these teams go nicely to three-deep, and occasionally to four. But none have shown yet that they can answer Coronado or Cheyenne Mountain at #5.
And, it’s going to take five solid to beat either of the Colorado Springs west siders. That is the bottom line of the story.
The 4A individual race may be as wide open as it’s been in several years. Most of the top contending teams have an entry in the derby: Coronado – Bailey Roth, Cheyenne Mountain – Josh Fowler, Thompson Valley – Daniel Lara, Broomfield – Ethan Gonzales, Centaurus – Chandler Reid (and it's possible Link is a second candidate here), Evergreen – Jackson Sayler, TCA – Conner Wilburn, Durango – Joe Maloney, Ponderosa - Eli Hemming. One other to think about would be Windsor’s Justin Weinmeister.
Nobody has stepped up to a decisive advantage here. At least not yet. Perhaps the one coming closest to that distinction has an international-level triathlon competition the weekend before state to attend to. My hunch is an event like that has the potential to mush up the legs a little.
I see a very interesting, and hard fought, battle for the individual title shaping up.
I wholeheartedly agree that Coronado and Cheyenne Mountain have been the class of 4A boys this year and if they run as they have, the field will find it hard to keep up. Coach Hugill and Coach Lambros are smart, accomplished, experienced coaches who have been here before.
I must say, this sounds very familiar to 2011. Two conference foes create some space from the field after beating each other up throughout the season …
… And then the third-place team from said conference pulls a masterpiece and takes the state title! That could be very good news for Palmer Ridge in 2012.
When I look at the anatomy of Centaurus’ win last year, I focus on the run of the Warriors’ number three that day, Alani Estrella. He finished 17th in 17:16, and note: he was only 13th at the Northern Conference meet and his PR from 17:07, at the usually-quick John Martin. He had the 72nd fastest time in 4A last year. Did those credentials bespeak a top-20 state run? Not in my mind, and that’s why they run the race.
I’m intrigued by the number-3 man; watch how that spot develops. If a motivated senior or a youngster with a steep learning curve emerges, it could make a big difference.
Don’t forget about Chandler Reid’s and Coach Devin Rourke’s team this year; I love (well, “love” might be a strong word given they’re conference rivals) how Rourke gets both of his teams to run well at the end of the year. This year, their number three man is senior Sam Patzer, and he has the look of a guy who could do what Estrella did last year.
Patzer set a PR of 16:44 at Pat Amato: pretty good time of year to run your best. He’s finished in the top-30 in every meet he’s run, and that includes meets like the Stampede, Liberty Bell, John Martin and Dave Sanders. Consistency…
On the other end of the spectrum and in the spirit of your article earlier this week, how about Nicholas Turco (Durango) and Jarrett Thollot (Thompson Valley, though technically, he’s sitting at #4 on the team right now). Both are freshman enjoying excellent seasons. Can they have their best race on the biggest stage of the season? Hard for a freshman, but these two might be able to pull it off.
Let’s finish my analogy to last year with Palmer Ridge’s #3, Jordan Deitsch. He’s sitting at 51st on the list of 4A boys. He likes Bear Creek Park—ran a very respectable 18:29 at the Stampede, and 17:20 this weekend at the Doherty meet. He’s got 16:49 Liberty Bell wheels. And if I may do a slight bit of presuming, perhaps he doesn’t want a female sibling to get all the attention that weekend.
Individually, I’d put the majority of my money on Reid, Roth and Lara. But I’d definitely hedge those bets with a fair amount of cash placed on the rest of the field.
Team Pages and Preseason Previews
4A Boys Virtual Meet