Rio Rancho's Caleb Rubalcaba had the weekend off, but has been running the competition ragged in New Mexico this fall. Photo contributed by Sal Gonzales.
If you're new to the NXN-SW scene, this is the time when the stakes start getting a little higher. Big wins push teams onto the regional championship race radar screen. Little lapses can be costly in the race to gain attention.
In Colorado, there were three big meets with NXN-SW implications this weekend.
The Pat Patten Invitational in Boulder pitted Monarch's girls versus Boulder and Cheyenne Mountain. Boulder brought Kelsey Lakowske to the starting line for the first time this season and, in so doing, took the anticipation up a couple of notches. Lakowse didn't disappoint, winning over the grassy, rolling course in 18:45. Teammate Sam Lewis finished second in 18:56. But Boulder didn't have quite enough to hold off the determined charge of Monarch. The Coyotes won by a 63-66 margin, even without one of their top runners. Cheyenne Mountain finished another 50 points or so back.
In the boys race, Monarch turned back Cheyenne Mountain by a relatively narrow margin of 19 points for the team title.
An hour's drive down the Front Range, Heritage was holding off the competition from Dakota Ridge in the Division I boys race of the Dave Sanders Invitational. Smoky Hill, Coronado, and Mountain Vista each finished close enough to keep some measure of hope for the championship race alive. At this point in the season, however, Heritage is on something of a roll. They should be a serious 5A boys state title contender.
In the girls' race, Highlands Ranch finally found the win that's been eluding them all season, knocking off Mountain Vista, Cherry Creek, and Arapahoe for the Division I team title. Eleanor Fulton won going away in 18:10.
At least one Division II team kept some Arizona dreams alive. Evergreen blistered the DII girls field with a 2-3-4-8-18 team score. The Cougars have been looking stronger almost every week.
The last big meet of the weekend was the TCA Titan Thunder Invitational on Saturday. The meet was billed as a big showdown between the girls from Fort Collins, Pine Creek, and The Classical Academy. Only Fort Collins never allowed it to become much of a showdown. With all five scoring girls finishing the 5K course in under 19:20, it was a dominating win. Erin Hooker scorched the course for the individual title in 17:58. The Classical Academy put all five scorers in under 20:00, but couldn't keep pace with the Fort Collins team. Pine Creek rested their regulars in anticipation of a Tuesday meet.
The Fort Collins boys were even more dominant that the girls, beating a highly-regarded Chaparral team in the process. David Garcia got the individual title in 15:41, while his fellow scorers all finished at 16:45 or faster.
Needless to say, it was the Fort Collins team making the big statements in Colorado this past weekend.
In Arizona, the place to be was the Toka Sticks Golf Course (site of the 2010 NXN-SW race on November 20). The event was the Desert Twilight Invitational. Roughly 3000 athletes in attendance, if you can wrap your head around processing that number of runners. And a few surprises emerged.
Nobody was surprised by the team winners--both Alhambra and Xavier were expected to win by healthy margins--and they did.
What was a little surprising, however, was how the other teams stacked up behind the champions.
The Desert Vista girls had their strongest showing of the year to move ahead of Highland into second. Neither was close to Xavier and Mesa Mountain View was the only other team within shouting distance of second and third.
For the boys, Mesa Mountain View was a not very surprising second, followed by Desert Vista and Highland. Brophy Prep and the entire contingent of Tucson-area schools finished well out of the running.
Big individual results were posted by Sarah Fakler (17:47) and Rolonda Jumbo (17:57) among the girls. Among the boys it was Billy Orman at 14:51. The next closest finisher was 23 seconds back.
Partly as a result of this meet, we likely have the clearest picture of the rankings of the top teams in any southwest region state except, perhaps, Utah.
Utah results for the weekend are proving difficult to come by. I've been trying various avenues for Park City results without any success. The Westlake Classic didn't host any of Utah's highest-ranked teams. So, pending the arrival of results I haven't seen yet, we'll pass on over Utah and proceed to Nevada.
I've seen some partial information from the Cedar Invitational in Cedar City. Pine View continues their outstanding season with a dominating win in the boys' division, going 1-2-3-10-12. Trevor Thompson wins in 15:02, but the time doesn't mean much without a distance--which I don't have. Timpview edged Cedar, 57-66, for the girls' team title. Carrie Jube of Timpview won the individual title but without a time--or at least without a reported time.
Update (10/04): Details are a little thin from the Park City Invitational, but Skyline bumped off host Park City and Alta for the girls' meet title. That gives Skyline a credible claim for being the #3 girls team in Utah. In the boys' division, Park City kept the hardward they purchased for the meet by beating the American Fork JV for first.
With that, the Utah Invitational season is essentially done. Regionals and state lie ahead. Then begins the long, long wait for bids. Train and wait. Train and wait. Not a pretty picture if you're a team on the bubble.
Carson won both titles in the Nevada chase race, but Galena wasn't present to contest the titles. Times would seem to indicate it was a fairly difficult course.
The Laughlin Invitational titles went to Shadow Ridge (boys) and Arbor View (girls). Shadow Ridge won by a large margin and was clearly the class of the field. Arbor View's win was by a much smaller margin of 13 points, but closer inspection reveals that margin was deceptively decisive. Although second-place Palo Verde beat Arbor View at the first three positons, it was narrow in each instance. Arbor View buried Palo Verde at 4 and 5. And we all know which places win and lose cross country meets.
Green Valley did not participate in the meet. It would have been interesting if they had.
Here's hoping we see Katie Gorczyca at NXN-SW!
From Nevada to New Mexico... by reputation at least the driest state in the Union to the second-driest state. Not sure what that means to us right now, but it seemed like a decent enough segue.
Hobbs swept the titles at the Artesia Invitational on Thursday. Whether Hobbs is strong enough for an NXN-SW invitation remains to be seen, but they're keeping chances alive by dominating the southeastern quadrant of New Mexico. Julian Flores wins the boys division and sets a new meet record for three miles at 15:42.
The Los Alamos girls and boys (maybe short a few from the regular varsity lineup) crushed the competition at the Santa Fe Indian School Invitational but, honestly, there was nobody at this meet in the same league as the Hilltoppers.
The meet of greatest consequence this weekend in New Mexico was the Eldorado Invitational. Although Albuquerque Academy had the weekend off, this one gave us a good picture of how a few of the rest of the Albuquerque area schools shake out.
Eldorado turned back La Cueva 38-48 for the girls team title. That result repeats a recent pattern and suggests Eldorado may have the best girls team in the state, but larger meets will provide a more telling picture. La Cueva easily handled the competition in the boys' field, scoring 2-3-6-8-9.
All in all, this weekend looks a bit like a scheduled siesta in the New Mexico invitational season.
Please look back for updates on this article as more meet results trickle in early in the week.