Holy Family's Ryan Willis tops the 3A returners in both hurdle events. Colorado Track XC file photo.
3A just completed a highly competitive year in cross country. We could revisit that same kind of close, competitive race in track and field this spring.
Defending state champion The Classical Academy has an edge in the rankings coming out of last season, but it's not a prohibitive lead by any stretch of the imagination. Here's how the rankings of individual events from last year's list of returners looks:
2012 CO HS M Outdoor Track Team Scores (Returners Only)
Calculated as of December 22, 2012
These rankings were calculated by scoring the rankings as a meet. We took the individual rankings and scored them as a typical meet: 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1.
Possibilities abound, but let's take things by event area, starting with the sprints.
With Berthoud, Rifle, and Mead all migrating the 3A, the sprint possibilities look very much different than they would have last year without the departures. Eaton's Austin Ekeler, La Junta's Joseph Jarmillo, and University's Dan Eberhard hold the top seeds, but there's nothing like a lock on any of these events at this point. There will be lots of points up for grabs in the sprints and sprint relays that weren't really on the table last spring.
If you're looking for a story in these events, you might find one in the fact that freshmen had a very strong presence in 3A sprints last spring. Lamar's Justevin Coberly, James Irwin's Miguel Molas, and Machebeuf's Stevie McAlester all rank as names to watch closely in their sophomore seasons this spring.
You also have to think about folks like Chad Foos, Dante Markley, and Nic Heller, but each of these three may end up playing more critical roles in other events (relays, hurdles, and jumps, respectively).
Moving up to the multi-lap events, things get real interesting real fast. How can you ignore the banner kind of season Anthony (Thomas) Rios had in cross country? Or the race Garrett Coles put together at NXR-SW? Or the experience Conner Wilburn gained this fall in multiple big-meet settings? And, where was Erich Hixson last spring? Wherever he was, he's on the radar screen now for this spring. And Hixson isn't the only one whose cross country season suggests a leap ahead of where their performances were in track last spring.
One big wild card to throw into the entire 3A 800 - 3200 picture for this spring concerns how the various teams play the 4x800 card. Running the 4x800 on the Thursday of state and coming back to run the 3200 the same day can be a game changer. Last year, TCA used a 4x800 team that involved no 3200 runners, and it paid off big in the 3200. It's not clear (even to me) that the Titans have the personnel to do that again this year. It does appear, however, that University, Holy Family, TCA, and Brush all have good reason to load the 4x800 this spring. So, the chess match has already begun...
Nobody brings back sub-4:30 or sub-10 credentials, but don't figure on that lasting for long.
Manitou's Garrett Finn wasn't among the classification's top finishers in cross country, but definitely figures among the 800 meter favorites based on what he ran in that event last spring.
In the hurdles, you have a clear favorite in Holy Family's Ryan Willis. But, if Willis doesn't keep a season-long edge (or even if he does), think a little while on Cedaredge's recent history in the hurdle events. Dante Markley isn't far back of Willis to begin with, and Coach Kirby Henderson definitely knows a thing or two about developing hurdle talent. In addition, I believe I recognize a familiar surname in the 300 meter hurdle rankings. If Drew Hubbard masters this event like Lindsey did, figure on another solid contender at 300 meters.
The throws would appear, at least at first glance, to be the personal territory of Faith Christian's Grayson Bundick. But Bundick has a football injury to recover from first. We wish him all the best in that endeavor.
In the shot put, Ellicott's Alex Hill went from more or less completely raw to semi-polished in the span of one season last spring. If he makes half that much progress again this spring, we have a serious battle in the shot put on our hands.
Similarly in the discus, although it would be a stretch to say Daniel Carr came from anywhere remotely close to raw last spring. Carr has developed, over the span of his high school career, into a very solid thrower--though probably better at discus than shot. Carr appears to be capable of pushing Bundick.
Kent Denver's John Reynolds has a substantial lead coming into the season in both horizontal jumps, with TCA's Collin Scheer sitting at second in the triple and third in the long. Austin Ekeler swaps places with Scheer in long and triple. If you're thinking of joining this little group, you'd best come equipped with a good set of springs.
It doesn't get any easier in the high jump. Scheer, Reid Gates, Andrew Cirone, and Reynolds all bring back 6-4 or better credentials.
In the pole vault, it's going to take a lot for anyone to catch up with 4A newcomer Truitt Parrish out of Sterling. Parrish cleared 15-0 last year and so ups the stakes considerably for anyone else wanting to take aim at this spring's 3A pole vault title. It will be interesting to see how the season develops for Parrish as he will not be facing the same kind of week-in and week-out pressure to elevate his height that he had last year simply to keep any hope of even placing in 4A alive.
At this point, no team boasts an insurmountable kind of lead. Depending much on what the various teams develop on the younger end of their rosters and how relays come together, any of about six or eight teams could easily figure as team title contenders this spring.