When the Colorado State Cross Country Championships begin at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs on Oct. 28, Mancos High School and Dolores High School will be well represented.
Among the significant storylines heading into this year’s Class 2A state meet is the quest of four-time defending regional champion Mancos High School to capture its first state title in school history.
Although the Bluejays seemingly lack a runner capable of nailing down an individual state championship, the senior-laden team led by Simon Kearns, Jake Mckie, Caleb Yoder, Zane Wilson and Alex Fleitz is experienced in big meets.
Soroco senior Ben Kelley finished 1st in the Class 4A state meet (15:52) and could be a factor to win the state title along with regional champions Isaac Roberts (Lyons High School), Nick Lavato (The Vanguard School), and Cody Danley (Rocky Ford High School).
Teams likely to fight Mancos for the state title include regional champions Rocky Ford High School, Peyton High School and Heritage Christian School.
“I am proud of the way that our runners ran (at regionals) and I look forward to seeing them run at the state meet,” wrote Mancos head coach Brady Archer, in an email that was sent to The Journal earlier this week.
Prior to the start of last week’s Class 2A Region 1 girls’ competition, Mancos High School’s girls’ cross country team was ranked 9th in the region and considered a long-shot to qualify for the state meet.
Career-best performances by freshman Grace Manning, who finished 7th (20:59), freshman Kyle Guiles and sophomore Hakayla Snow, allowed the Lady Jays to finish 4th as a team and punch their ticket to state.
Although the Lady Jays are unlikely to compete for an individual or state title this season, the opportunity to compete as a team in Colorado’s most prestigious cross country event will allow the young group to gain valuable experience that could serve them well in years to come.
“Our girls’ team ran like a veteran team at (Regionals) and that’s why they are going to state,” wrote Brady Archer. “They went out and ran a smart race.”
Individually, Telluride High School senior Soleil Gaylord is the favorite to capture the Class 2A State Title after winning the Region 1 Championship by 28 seconds thanks to a blistering time of 19:09.
Nederland High School freshman Helen Cross figures to be Gaylord’s stiffest competition based on her meet-best time of 19:34 at the Region 1 Championship, while Paonia High School appears to be the favorite to win the girls’ team championship after placing three runners in the top-10 at the Region 1 Championship.
After a several-year absence from the Class 2A State Cross Country Championships, Dolores High School will be represented this season by junior standout Phillip Huffman, who placed 6th (17:23) at the Region 1 Championships in Delta on Oct. 21.
Known for his tireless work ethic and ability to perform well in big meets, Huffman will look to establish himself as one of the state’s top juniors in preparation for next season.
Fans interested in following the Class 2A State Cross Country Meet live are encouraged to visit www.co.milesplit.com for live results. The Class 2A girls’ state meet is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and the Class 2A boys’ state meet is slated to start at 11:20 a.m. on Oct. 28.