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  • Fairview's Kyle Lund is one of the top returning runners...

    MARK LEFFINGWELL

    Fairview's Kyle Lund is one of the top returning runners for the Knights, who have state title aspirations entering the cross country season.

  • Fairview's Isabelle Kennedy is the top runner for a Knights...

    MARK LEFFINGWELL

    Fairview's Isabelle Kennedy is the top runner for a Knights girls cross country squad that enters the season ranked third in Class 5A.

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BOULDER — Although it finished fourth at state, the Fairview High boys cross country team felt it flew under the radar in 2011. The Knights are flying a bit higher to start 2012.

After last year’s state meet, the Knights knew they had a lot to look forward to since they would return their top four runners. The way the senior-laden group has started the season, its now feels like 2012 may be its best chance to win a 5A state title.

“We know this is the year,” senior Kyle Lund said.

Fairview unveiled its 2012 squad during the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede at the Norris Penrose Event Center last Friday. The meet — this year’s early-season pre-state preview of the 2012 state championship course — was attended by most teams in the state. The Knights won the 5A varsity boys division.

For the Knights, the team to beat is Mountain Vista, which was not at the pre-state meet. For Mountain Vista, Lund said he would hope the Golden Eagles are gunning for the Knights.

Starting the season ranked second behind Mountain Vista in Colorado Milesplit’s preseason coaches poll, the Knights have since closed the gap. The Week 1 rankings had both teams with 84 points, the slight edge going to Mountain Vista because of three more first-place votes.

No more flying under the radar for the Fairview boys like last year. And the Knights decided to attend the St. Vrain Invitational this Saturday to get a first-hand look at how they match up with Mountain Vista.

“We weren’t the big team. We weren’t Fort Collins. We weren’t Mountain Vista, who came in and got really close,” Lund said. “We didn’t have the best state meet but we were still fourth. Now, coming out this year, we are definitely a lot more noticeable.”

Fort Collins won state last year but graduated its top five runners. Mountain Vista, however, returns five from last year’s seven-man state runner-up lineup.

Eyeing the No. 1 spot in the state during their summer training, Lund said the Knights’ state-title potential motivated them. Personally, it inspired him to push the other Knights runners.

With the kind of depth and talent the Knights have, a handful of Knights are pushing Lund as much as he is pushing them.

“It’s not a one-man team,” Lund said. “There’s four of us that any day could be the top guy.”

At the pre-state meet, Lund took fourth with a time of 17 minutes, 31.1 seconds. Right behind him was senior Bridger Tomlin (17:38.2) in sixth, senior Cory Munsch (17:45.0) in ninth and junior Rich Sanchez (18:18.6) in 28th.

After their top four, Lund said the Knights have around 10 runners competing for the fifth scoring spot. At the pre-state meet, that fifth scorer was Zach Swenson, who finished 43rd in 18:29.2. Sophomore Hal Schultz came in 36 seconds behind Swenson.

Tomlin said the attention and rankings haven’t added cumbersome pressure to the season. Instead, they have affirmed the Knights belief in their goal.

“It’s definitely a goal we’ve been working towards for four years and it’s an attainable goal,” Tomlin said. “It gives us more realization that this is a real thing we can go and get. It gives us more drive.”

Head coach Josh Glaab said the Knights’ talent makes a state title possible. But they’ll need to be perfect, a little lucky even, in everything they do up to the state meet make it happen. He also said he was pleasantly surprised by the Knights girls’ start to the season.

Isabelle Kennedy, who took 9th at state despite being sick with pneumonia most of last season, finished 6th at pre-state. As a team, the Knights girls took third at the pre-state meet and enter the season ranked third behind defending champion Monarch and Fort Collins. Kennedy, Emily Barnes (14th), Margot Clyne (24th), Mckenna Payes (30th) and Kristina Brunsgaard (39th) all placed in the top 40 last week.

“We have a lot of depth and we’re hoping to go top five at state,” Kennedy said. “That should happen if nobody gets injured.”

Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi

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