Fair warning: Mandy Ortiz already owns a meet title on the NPEC/BCRP course. Colorado Track XC file photo.
Yes, I am taking a closer look at the 4A teams but, no, you won't find any mention of TCA in this article. It just seems like walking through a minefield for me to be saying anything evaluative about our team at this point. TCA plans to be at the start line and the kids will be running their hearts out on Saturday, but I'll leave it to others to say anything about us that needs to be said. There are enough positive comments to be made about other programs here, so I'll leave it at that.
With that out of the way, let's take a look at a few to 4A's top state entries:
Coronado - If you've seen the Cougars run this season, you've been impressed. I don't think they've had a bad race all season long. And, I can promise you that making varsity on this team was an ordeal this fall. As best as I can tell at this point, Bailey Roth, Dan Egger, and Andres Luna are running front of the pack on this team, but there isn't a weak link to be found on the entire roster. And I can promise you they know the course.
Cheyenne Mountain - The Indians have been laying low for the last couple of weeks. As I see it, that means they are saving up everything they have for this one event. Zach Kuzma and Josh Fowler have been up front lately, but, like Coronado, they're devoid of weak spots in the roster. The regional result from last Thursday means precisely nothing beyond the fact that Cheyenne Mountain advanced a team to state.
Thompson Valley - There is no team in 4A with a deeper recent tradition at the state meet than Thompson Valley. And, the Eagles had a very nice regional race to signal the world that they are ready to roll at state. Two Daniels (Lara and Bloom) lead the charge, but TV has been getting steadily better at 3-4-5 all season long. It was a rough start to the season for TV, but those struggles seem to be well in the past. In the best tradition of Spy vs. Spy, we'll wait to see whether TV comes out in black or white on Saturday.
Palmer Ridge - There were a few messages mailed in from regional week, but perhaps none in a bigger font than the one sent by Palmer Ridge. The Bears posted what was easily their best result of the season at 4A Region 2. If they can back that effort up at state, Eric Hamer, Nate Mills, and company could be trouble, big trouble. The depth on this team is more than any of us realized until last Thursday. They are not Coronado-deep, but--at some level--it doesn't matter much beyond six or seven.
Centaurus - Remember last year's state championship? Who wouldn't?! Well, you apparently won't see the same singlets at the front of the pack this year. That's not to discount the Warriors' chances, just to suggest that the photos I saw from the regional meet indicate that Centaurus has new unis. Sam Patzer, Jake Link, and Chandler Reid have been posting nice times on courses everywhere they've gone. It doesn't figure to get much different at state. Just another really well-coached 4A team...
Durango - I know the Delta course tends to run fast, and it ran really fast last Wednesday. But I don't think that's a good reason to be dismissing Durango's chances on Saturday. Joe Maloney is clearly the ringleader here, but the next four guys (McLaughlin, Gianniny, Turco, and McMillan) all stopped running between 16:54 and 16:59. That's a tough pack to break up even if your 3-4-5 guys can clip along at that pace. Even harder, of course, if they can't.
There's a saying often used by card players that seems singularly appropriate at this point: "Read 'em and weep."
It really doesn't get much easier on the girls side.
Thompson Valley - The Eagles plowed through their regional race with little resistance. And that little statement above about Thompson Valley's 4A state meet tradition is even more applicable in the case of the girls. Kendra Larson, Megan Irvine, and Hayley Berg will be doing the big damage up front. Black or white, which personality is it, Coach Norton?
Air Academy - You knew this team was better than what they had shown. They showed it at the regional race. If there's space for anyone to get into Elise Cranny's head (and I'm not sure if there is or isn't), Katie Rainsberger would be the person to occupy that space. Olivia Evans and Hanna Born are very solid at 2-3. Air Academy had better be figuring into your state meet planning.
Battle Mountain - The results, including times places and people running/not running, have been a little on the confusing side for the Huskies the last couple of weeks. But, if you weren't doing the Rip Van Winkle thing during the CM Stampede, you have a pretty clear idea of how good this team is. And, there is no 4A team in the state I'd give more credit on a hilly course than the one led by Mandy Ortiz and Val Constien.
Coronado - This team lacks a sub-19 presence (at least so far), but they make up for it really nicely with strength at 3-4-5 that a lot of teams don't have. The top three are Lauren Akers, Gabby Roth, and Sylvia Hayes, but the order among these three seems to be kind of interchangeable. A breakout race by one or two of these three could create a lot of problems for the other teams.
Behind these five, there's a cluster of schools--Summit, Evergreen, Durango, Niwot, Broomfield, and Centaurus--that have the potential to be dangerous on the right day and with a breakout kind of race. I'm disinclined to write any of these teams off though the story of the season to date would tend to favor the teams mentioned immediately above.
Complete List of 4A State Meet Teams