Distance running has long been the most prominent athletic cultural identifier for the Boulder County area, and that culture has permeated the prep ranks and generated elite high school cross country runners year after year.
The examples of record-setting, multi-time champions are myriad over the years from Boulder High legend Melody Fairchild to Niwot’s Elise Cranny to Lyons’ Paul Roberts to Monarch’s Isaac Green, and so on. Current Peak to Peak junior Quinn McConnell is steadily racing her way into consideration as one of Colorado’s all-time great prep runners, as well, and the Broomfield girls team could go down as one of the all-time best.
But even for Boulder County, this year’s crop has the potential to set a new standard, particularly in terms of the incredible depth of its talent. By my count, the BoCoPreps.com area schools have a chance to at least contend for either an individual title or a team championship is pretty much every race at this Saturday’s cross country state championships.
“We really could,” Broomfield head coach Greg Weich agreed with a chuckle while I chatted with him on Tuesday. “It’s going to be a crazy day for the BoCo.”
The state championships are on deck at Norris Penrose Event Center this Saturday, so let’s a take a look at each of the races from a BoCoPreps.com perspective…
5A boys race, 9:20 a.m.
After placing third in Class 5A as a junior this season, Monarch’s Charlie Perry has taken the baton from Green and run with it from the outset of his senior year. With Perry expected to contend for an individual title and leading the way, the Coyotes should also have a good shot to repeat as team champions with William Dixon and Isaac Russo also favorites to take home medals.
Though he has spent the fall both playing soccer for the third-ranked Broomfield soccer team, Eagles runner Michael Mooney should also be a factor and could push Perry for the state title.
2A girls race, 10 a.m.
Just a sophomore, Nederland’s Helen Cross currently owns the third fastest 5K time recorded by any 2A female runner this season and could take a big leap up the podium after placing 11th as a freshman in 2016. Dawson freshman Lucca Fulkerson has the sixth fastest 2A time, Shining Mountain’s Emma Schaefer the seventh and Nederland’s Sarah Davidson the ninth. With the Lyons runners also having three of the top 21 times on the season, Nederland, Dawson, Shining Mountain and Lyons could all factor into the team race.
5A girls race, 10:40 a.m.
With a senior-laden lineup – Madison Mooney, Ivy Gonzales, Katelyn Mitchem, the list goes on… – filled with future collegiate runners, most of whom were a part of Eagles’ last two team championships, the Broomfield girls are going for their third consecutive state title and the team competition figures to come down to them and Mountain Vista. Legacy sophomore Brynn Siles also has the potential to win the individual championship, which gives the Broomfield area schools a chance to take home both the team and individual crown.
Keep an eye on Boulder’s Claudia Burgess, who placed fifth as a sophomore in 2015, and the Fairview Knights, who won the 5A Region 3 team title last week behind a fifth-place finish from Isabella Bowland. Also, Monarch always seems to have a top-10 placer.
2A boys race, 11:20 a.m.
Lyons’ Isaac Roberts placed sixth as a freshman last season and having run among the classification’s top five times this season, could compete for the individual title while Lyons always seems to be in the mix for the team title. Roberts, at the very least, is the favorite to be the fastest racer in his graduating class and the youngest top-five finisher.
4A girls race, 12 p.m.
Centaurus and Niwot could contend for the team title. Niwot freshman Taylor James is coming off a 4A Region 3 win last week and should lead the Cougars group, while Centaurus sophomore Riley Geldean will be looking to add to her eighth-place medal from 2016 and has definite top-five potential. Niwot’s Maggie Smith, and Centaurus’ Katie Hooten and and Molly Maksin, give their teams strong scoring potential, and watch out for Silver Creek’s Lauren Zoe Baker, who ran 18:30 at the Northern league meet earlier this month.
3A boys race, 12:40 p.m.
Jefferson Academy’s Ryan Lehmuth enters the race with the fastest time in 3A – a 15:47 he ran at the Thornton Invitational on Sept. 29. Holy Family’s Kyle McCabe and Peak to Peak’s William Leddon will be others to watch.
4A boys, 1:20 p.m.
This team competition could get really interesting with Centaurus, Niwot and Silver Creek all threats to win the team title. Individually, Centaurus senior John O’Malley currently holds the fastest 5K time in the state this season. Second behind him is Silver Creek’s Brock Dykema, who finished second at the 4A Region 4 meet by one second to teammate Logan Simington.
3A girls, 2 p.m.
No surprises here, as the defending champion Peak to Peak Pumas are the clear favorites to repeat their title from last season after returning 2015 champion Quinn McConnell, as well as title contenders Anna Shults and Tiana Bradfield. Expect McConnell and Shults to finish first and second. Holy Family’s Alyssa Wells could also finish in the top 10.
Well, there’s a list of top Boulder County names and teams that are positioned to have a major impact at this weekend’s cross country state championships. Even for the BoCoPreps.com area, this year’s list is pretty darn long.