Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley gear up for regionals
Is No. 9 in the cards?
Crank up the simulator, people.
With the 4A CHSAA Region 1 Meet set for today in Grand Junction’s Lincoln Park, all 24 teams — 12 each for boys and girls — have run the virtual-meet function on co.milesplit.com.
Based on the best times recorded by the individual runners throughout the regular season, Battle Mountain’s girls will beat Eagle Valley, 64-92, for the regional title, but the Devils’ Samantha and Joslin Blair will go 1-2.
On the boys’ side, Battle Mountain will also win, knocking off Summit County, 72-96, and with four teams qualifying for the state meet, Eagle Valley’s gents will finish seventh and be out of luck
And that last statement is why everyone from Conifer, Evergreen, Mullen, Golden, Green Mountain to Grand Junction Central and the traditional Slope teams in between look at these numbers.
It’s the motivation.
Are the Battle Mountain girls the favorites? Winning this meet eight years in a row unquestionably earns them that distinction. Is sophomore Samantha Blair the favorite for the individual title or is it Joslin, who is the defending champ?
One can recount stories from now until the boys’ race starts today at 5 p.m., followed by the girls at 5:30 p.m. of times teams and individuals proved the virtual meet wrong.
Just one example was 2016 when the Eagle Valley boys were No. 7 in the computer entering the meet. The Devils laughed at the computer as they qualified for state down in Denver. On a side note, happy third birthday to Mya Brandt, the youngest of Justin and Melinda Brandt, the latter the coach of Eagle Valley. Miss Mya was born during that regional meet in 2016.
• The year was 2010, and dinosaurs roamed the earth. It’s the last time the Huskies’ girls did not win what was then Western Slope Regionals, now known as Region 1.
Speaking of kids, Riley and Logan Parish, the offspring of Huskies coach Rob and Kelli Parish, weren’t born the last time the Battle Mountain girls didn’t win this meet. Ry is in the third grade now.
Senior Grace Johnson and junior Elliot Pribramsky have stepped in as Nos. 1 and 1a, replacing Naomi and Lizzy Harding, who replaced the Constiens, who replaced the Ortizes and so on.
Can they nine-peat? Most like their chances.
• Who wins the girls’ individual title? The computer says the Devils’ Samantha Blair because she ran a time of 17 minutes, 12.32 seconds down in Arizona late last month. Joslin Blair had a 17:17.20 there as well. It’s worth noting that both Blairs have broken 18 minutes at altitude this season.
That puts them ahead of Battle Mountain’s Johnson, who had an 18:02.56 at Lincoln Park in September. In 2017, Naomi Harding won the regional title in Summit. In 2018, it was Joslin Blair in EagleVail.
Can Johnson run with the Blairs? Yes. Will she? Parish, as always, is mum about when he tapers his runners. If history is any guide, the Huskies haven’t tapered yet, so Johnson likely runs very well but isn’t in the elite form that might help her win an individual title.
• Nos. 3-5. … In the postseason, every team has an elite runner or two. Stipulated most aren’t as good as the Blairs or Johnson/Pribramsky, but the point remains a team needs five runners to score. Regional and state meets get decided by how deep a team is.
Thus the spotlight goes to Battle Mountain’s Emma Reeder, Milaina Almonte, Lily Whelan, and Haley Brewster, Jake Allen, Ari Dennis, and Ezri Purdue. For Eagle Valley, that’s Tatum Coe, Jordan Neifert, and Samantha Boeke. And for the Devils’ boys, this is why a surprise can pop. After Gage Nielsen and Dillon Flaagan, Eagle Valley just has a pack of youngsters who could finish in any order from Nos. 3-9.
And postseason races provide surprises. At the 2016 state meet, Lizzy Harding ran while sick and went down in a heap near the end of the race. Some freshman named Grace Johnson stepped in as the No. 5 scorer, and the Huskies won the state title.
• Who wins the boys’ race? This is going to be tight. The computer says Battle Mountain, but that assumes all the Huskies run their best races. Summit County has beaten Battle Mountain this year. There’s also Central, which won this meet last year. Battle Mountain hasn’t won regionals since 2016.
And for motivational purposes, Battle Mountain, Summit, Central, Conifer, Green Mountain and Mullen are all ranked ahead of the Eagle Valley boys.
News and notes
• Lincoln Park is fast course, but not Delta fast. In cross-country-speak, Delta was the site of ye olde Western Slope Regional Meet, essentially a jetway for runners to obliterate school records. Lincoln Park is not quite that fast with more turns.
• The top four squads, as well as any individuals in the top 15 not affiliated with a top-four squad, make state. In a related development, Eagle Valley’s Nielsen is ranked No. 16 by the computer.
• How do the Denver squads adjust to the road trip? A trip to Grand Junction is par for the course for Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley. Denver teams are not used to four-hour road trips. That might be something to watch.