It's rare to see such a great early season match-up take place, but that's exactly what happened Thursday evening in Colorado. The top two ranked Midwest boys, Bobby Nicolls and Evan Appel, squared off for the first of what could be a few battles this season, while many other top Colorado teams and individuals took to the 5k spread at the Poudre SD Pre-State Cross Country Invitational in Fort Collins.
Poudre SD Pre-State Cross Country Invitational (CO)
For the past few years Evan Appel (Sr., Dakota Ridge, CO) (pictured with white top & black shorts, by Ken Regan) and Bobby Nicolls (Sr., Regis, CO) (pictured far right by Ken Regan) have shown that they are two of the top distance runners in the country. Appel qualified for Foot Locker Nationals his sophomore and junior seasons, while Nicolls qualified for Foot Locker Nationals last fall as a junior. This season both athletes are working towards a national title, as they are the top two returnees from Foot Locker Nationals in '07.
Living close to one another, it was guaranteed that Appel and Nicolls would see each other at some point this season before their state meet, but on Thursday the Appel v. Nicolls rivalry kicked-off at the Poudre SD Pre-State Cross Country Invitational.
For the past few years it's seemed that Appel had Nicolls' number earlier in the season, while Nicolls make a strong push at the end of the season, especially in the post-season meets. However, Nicolls turned the tide around Thursday evening, beating Appel over the 5k course, besting his rival 15:26.4-15:34.5.
While the Nicolls-Appel match-up was the highlight of the day, Durango pulled off quite an upset to win the 5A boys title, using a strong 1-5 split of 41 seconds to beat such notable squads as Cherry Creek, Dakota Ridge and Regis. Durango (CO) beat Cherry Creek (CO) for the title 113-151, while Regis (CO) nipped Dakota Ridge (CO) for third, both teams scoring 156 points, but Regis winning on the sixth place tie-breaker.
In the girls 5A race, Fort Collins (CO) used an impressive 1-4 finish to top in-state rival Dakota Ridge. Fort Collins scored 94 points behind the leadership of Miranda Benzel, who placed second to race champion Natosha Rogers (Sr., Dakota Ridge, CO). The senior Benzel led three other Forth Collins runners in the top 18, showing once again why they are considered one of the better teams in the country.
In other race action, Wheat Ridge (CO) placed 1-3-4 for their top three, leading the squad to a 124-142 win in the 4A boys race over Falcon (CO). Wheat Ridge followed the lead of senior front runner Dart Schwaderer, who won the race in 15:55.5.
-- Race Notes --
While many of the top athletes in the state were taking part in this meet, a few teams competed without their top runners. Notable athletes, Wes Rickman of Falcon H.S. and Kaitie Vanatta of Dakota Ridge H.S., both were missing in the results. According to ColoradoTrackXC.com editor Alan Versaw, Rickman is coming back from an upper leg injury that sprang up earlier this summer, ,while Vannata is trying to come back from injuries that have plagued her over the past year. With Dakota Ridge losing to Fort Collins 94-122 Thursday, it makes it ever more apparent that Vannata needs to be healthy if her team hopes to repeat their dominating finish of 2007 (winning the state title by 49 points).