NXN-SW: The Cream Starts to Rise

Welcome to the Lions' Den: Alhambra's season has been going very nicely to date. Photo by Margot Kelly.


Touring the southwest was easy this weekend. With the exception of Arizona, the top contenders for NXN-SW bids tended to settle into a fairly narrow spectrum of meets.

In Utah, all eyes were on the Murray Invitational on Friday. Of the roughly 50 teams in attendance, most of the top programs in Utah were in attendance.

American Fork's boys, however, were one of those top teams showing up elsewhere. The Caveman boys went to the Wasatch Invitational in Soldier Hollow and cleaned house--placing all seven varsity runners in the top 11. I'll post some sort of link to results if I can track them down.

In the absence of the Cavemen, Davis had a very nice showing on the boys' side of the Murray Invitational. Led by Austin Neuner in second at 15:14.1 (for 2.97 miles, or close to it), Davis scored 2-7-14-25-33 to open up 19 points of margin on second-place Pine View. Mountain View was another 42 back and the remaining teams were way out of the running. Trevor Thompson of Pine View took individual honors in 15:02.

For the girls, we saw a 1-2 team finish from Ogden and Davis for the second week in a row. Mountain View and Park City, two teams that garnered a lot of preseason attention, were relegated to fourth and fifth, behind Alta. If trends mean anything, Ogden and Davis are the class of the field in Utah girls' teams right now. There's still season left for other teams to make up ground, but that's a lot of real estate to make up in just a little over a month before the state meet.

Between the two schools, Ogden and Davis grabbed five of the top seven places, no small feat in a meet as large as this one. Individual honors went to Shea Martinez of Davis in 17:48.8. Avery Calton of Ogden was close on her heels.


Murray Invitational

In New Mexico, a lot of teams seem to have taken a pass this weekend, at least so far as competing their top runners was concerned.

Albuquerque Academy showed up at the Highlands Invitational with their top four in civvies. It didn't matter much. Chargers 5 through 11 schooled the field, winning by a margin of 13 points over second-place La Cueva in a 14-team meet. AA scored 4-6-7-10-11 for the win.

There was a nice group of three individuals at the front of the Highland Invitational with Tyler Saiz of Del Norte winning in 16:02, Kyle Fast Wolf of La Cueva in second at 16:07, and Eric Fenton of Hope Christian in third at 16:08. Each of these three are running very nicely at this point in the season.

On the girls' side, Julia Foster continues her tour of destruction on NM cross country courses. This time, she finished in 18:23, only  seven seconds short of going a full minute up on the entire field. Assuming Foster returns to the NXN-SW championship race this fall, she will clearly be going in as one of the individual favorites for a repeat trip to Portland.

La Cueva prevailed in a tight team race between themselves, Albuquerque Academy, and Eldorado.

I have not seen an advertised distance for the Highland Invitational course, though Adam Kedge described the course as "flat and fast," which would seem to make 5K a reasonable guess at the course distance.

Two other BIG winners in girls races in New Mexico over the weekend were Caroline Kaufman of East Mountain and Nisa Rascon of Valencia. Kaufman won the Jemez Valley Invite in 20:56, a full 54 seconds ahead of second. Rascon won the Socorro Stampede on Friday in 18:56, 1:05 ahead of Cleveland's Alana Littleford. Cleveland, however, nailed down places 2, 3, and 4 en route to an easy team title. Rascon is a bit of a new name on the radar and would seem to warrant a little closer attention as the season progresses.

And that would bring me to my own personal little nemesis--the business of finding meet results from Nevada. The Larry Burgess Invitational in Boulder City is a bit of a high profile affair and provides most of the fodder for this weekend's Nevada highlight reel.

Katie Gorczyca of Palo Verde won the girls title easily in 19:45. She probably got so fast fleeing mispronunciations of her last name. Luckily this is print media (well, sort of) so I don't have to tackle that particular challenge. Gorczyca couldn't make the magic extend to her team, however, as team honors went, rather convincingly, to Rancho Buena Vista with a 2-4-6-7-9 team score. Game over.

Rancho Buena Vista would have just become my personal pick as the best girls' team in Nevada, displacing South Tahoe, but they actually came over from California for this meet. Arbor View, a distant second, was the top finisher among Nevada high schools.

Rancho Buena Vista's boys were almost, but not quite, as convincing in winning the boys' title. Centennial, a legitimate local school, was the top finisher among Nevada programs.

Of course, Nevada is all about getting visitors to come and leave their money behind. So, RBV leaves with a couple of trophies and Nevada takes in a little California revenue. Probably both sides are happy.


Larry Burgess Las Vegas Invitational

Reed High School in Sparks hosted the local invitational for the Reno/Carson City area. Unfortunately, the varsity boys race imploded as the contestants went off course in multiple variations. Here's hoping it was a good quality workout for all concerned. I'm guessing a few coaches experienced some accelerated aging over that little adventure. Among the girls, Carson went on to a fairly easy win. South Tahoe was not present at the meet.

Nothing as exciting as having a varsity boys' race with no results happened in Colorado this weekend, but that doesn't make it a dull weekend.

The action opened up on Friday afternoon with the Cherry Creek Invitational.

Let's just say that any rumors of the demise of the Fort Collins girls program are a little premature, though you have to know how to read the tea leaves to see what's going on. Fort Collins did win the girls varsity race with scoring times of 19:01 (Erin Hooker), 19:46, 20:04, 20:05, and 20:21. But, Cherry Creek is a bit of a fast track for a cross country course. So, why the excitement? Well, that would owe to 20:05 and 20:16 finishers in the freshman/sophomore girls race. That probably still leaves the Lambkins in arrears to both Monarch and Boulder (more on these schools to come), but with seven race horses in the game and a history of being well-coached, Fort Collins promises to have a say in the Colorado 5A girls contest.

Cherry Creek was a distant second in the girls race at their own invitational.

With the boys, Fort Collins completed a sweep of the team titles at the Cherry Creek Invitational. Just as they did last week, the Fort Collins boys edged out the Heritage boys. David Garcia took second for the Lambkins in 16:09 and Fort Collins was running without the services of Tait Rutherford. This should be a very good Fort Collins boys team.

Individual honors in the boys' race went to Chris Ganem of Castle View in 15:59. Cherry Creek's Olivia Anderson won the girls' title in 18:46.


Cherry Creek Invitational

Colorado had a second big shindig this weekend at the St. Vrain Invitational in Lyons. Lyons is about 12 miles north of Boulder, which makes it a natural place for Boulder and Monarch High Schools to show up for a meet. And so they did. Stir Pine Creek, Mountain Vista, and The Classical Academy into the pot, and you have the makings of an outstanding field of girls' teams. The race lived up to what the field indicated it should be.

For the second week in a row, Monarch got the best of a Boulder team without the services of Kelsey Lakowske. Once again, though, the margin was very slender. If Lakowske comes back at full strength, she probably tips the scales in Boulder's favor. If not, this one could remain very, very close.

Individual honors went to Shelby Stableford of The Classical Academy in 18:50. Stableford overtook Pine Creek's Heather Bates just before two miles and never looked back.

For the second week in a row, Monarch's boys faced no real challengers. This time, however, they beat Mountain Vista, a serious 5A contender that wasn't in the field at last week's pre-state meet. Essentially, this means that the Coyotes have already thumped every legitimate 5A contender. Monarch junior Kirk Webb won the individual title on the rolling course in 16:27.


St. Vrain Invitational

And that brings us to everybody's favorite spring break destination--Arizona.

The Catalina Cross Country Classic (nice little piece of alliteration there), kept things hopping in the Tucson area. Catalina Foothills won the meet, but will need a smaller gap between their 3 and 4 runners to be a serious NXN-SW contender. Ditto for Rio Rico among the girls, only the problematic gap for Rio Rico in this race was between the 2 and 3 runners. Aeoleone Bristow had a nice 19:44 clocking to win the girls' race.


Catalina Cross Country Classic

The Ray Wherley Invitational in Prescott offered the Phoenix area teams an opportunity to dodge a little late summer heat. It isn't exactly the Yukon, but almost any place this side of Saudi Arabia is cooler than Phoenix.

In any case, it seems to be the fashion in Arizona this year to score early-season meets by time, and this meet has joined the fad. This time, they added the time of seven runners to score the race. By that method, Alhambra's boys were easy winners over Brophy Prep and Mingus Union. Will Firth of Brophy, however, took individual honors in 16:28.

Hopi was an even bigger winner among the girls. Kayla Freeman of Greenway took individual honors in 17:43 (2.5 miles). Unlike the boys' division, however, the girls' division was lacking a Phoenix area presence.


Ray Wherley Invitational

Easily the best girls' team performance I could find for Arizona this weekend came from the Padre Invitational at Kiwanis Park (yes, the Kiwanis Park). Mesa Mountain View hammered the field with a 4-6-7-8-11 team score (scored according to the conventional fashion). Times for the top five from Mesa Mountain View ranged from 20:04 to 20:34. Kylee Kieser of Marcos de Niza took individual honors in 18:51.

Cibola took the boys title at the Padre Invitational, but without the sort of exclamation point used by the Mesa Mountain View girls. Correction (9/13): Mesa Mountain view took the boys title at the Padre Invitational, but without the sort of exclamation point used by their girls' team.


Padre Invitational

Non-conventional scoring was the rule of the day at the Chandler Invitational, but I'm still casting about for complete results of that meet.

It was a busy weekend in Arizona, easily the busiest of the five state NXN-SW region.

For the upcoming week, the big enchilada on Colorado's plate is the Liberty Bell Invitational. This one always brings in some schools from out of state. This year, those out-of-state schools include Albuquerque Academy, Los Alamos, and Rio Rancho from New Mexico. Regrettably, however, a delectable match-up between the Albuquerque Academy and Monarch boys apparently won't happen as AA comes in with Division I credentials and Monarch with Division II credentials (Don't ask me to explain that because I can't.). Nevertheless, this is the big happening of the upcoming weekend in the southwest region. There are no other high-profile meets in Colorado.

With AA, LA, and RR headed to Littleton, any meets taking place in New Mexico have lost a little firepower. That said, Manzano should be a fair-sized invitational and we'll keep our ears to the ground for any big developments in the Land of Enchantment.

For Utah, it appears that Provo and Utah Valley University will be hosting the two biggest meets.

Brophy Prep hosts the George Young Invitational in Scottsdale for the biggest meet of the weekend in Arizona, though several other meets will be taking place across the state.

Nevada? My reading of the clues suggests that this would be a good weekend to look for Nevada schools in big California meets. And that would be a lot like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Hints gratefully accepted.