Huskies cross-country No. 1, according to rankings

Naomi Harding and Battle Mountain girls cross-country are ranked No. 1 in the preseason rankings. That said, Air Academy was in the No. 1 spot last summer, and we're pretty sure the Kadets didn't win the state title.
Special to the Daily | has rendered its first preseason prediction, and it says that the Battle Mountain girls cross-country team could be really good.

The Huskies are the defending champs. They also had a pretty good track season with a 3,200–meter relay title, and they didn’t graduate anyone from either championship squad.

Ergo, being ranked No. 1 in a preseason poll isn’t exactly a shock with Air Academy and Durango in tow. (Nice to see Eagle Valley clocking in at No. 11. I don’t remember seeing the Devils in the preseason charts before.)

But before we give Battle Mountain the repeat and put them in the pantheon with the 2006-07 boys’ team, let’s remember last summer.

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The aforementioned Kadets were ranked No. 1 and the Huskies No. 2. Everyone in the Battle Mountain community was quite excited that the ladies were getting some notice.

It also started a slow burn for everyone wearing black and gold. The Huskies got “Jan Brady Complex.” Instead of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” it was “Air Academy, Air Academy, Air Academy.” (Yes, I am aware that doesn’t parse.)

From the Cheyenne Mountain Shootout, aka prestate, and throughout the season, the ladies were constantly tracking the Kadets. After the Stampede, it wasn’t pretty, if we recall. Air Academy did a number on the Huskies, who, yes, didn’t have Naomi Harding at the time.

Talking to coach Rob Parish at the time, even though we both figured Harding would be back, the Kadets were still better. And the Huskies worked and worked and worked, and we all know how that worked out.

Ladies, Air Academy, Durango and the rest of the state woke up on Saturday, saw those rankings and got a little extra spring in their step. The Kadets, the Demons, the No. 11 Devils and the rest of the state are coming for you, simply as you looked up at Air Academy this past summer and fall.

It’s hard to win. It’s even harder to repeat. You best be working.

History repeating?

And there’s a reason I brought up the boys team that went back-to-back. Of course they had the challenge of repeating, but it was how they did it.

That was a time when the campus was across the interstate, and it was not uncommon to see Jonny Stevens and Tony Crisofulli running along Highway 6 as I was pulling into the office.

Something else was also happening. Some goofy guy named John O’Neill, who finished 103rd and did not score at the 2006 state meet, was working. These Huskies repeated because everyone worked relentlessly, and John O’Neill came out of nowhere to become one of “The Big Three” with Stevens and Crisofulli. (Said Big Three was looking for a fourth for the 3,200 later that spring and found Connor Tedstrom. Sound familiar, Sofia Piliero?)

That begs the question, as these long days progress, and we count down to reporting day, “Who’s going to be John O’Neill for this team?” Yes, the Huskies have Elizabeth Constien, Lizzy and Naomi Harding, Alex Raichart and Kaela Fahrney, whose credentials are impeccable. But is there someone out there who’s ready to make the jump to the elite?

It wouldn’t surprise me to see that happen.

Ladies, the gauntlet has been thrown down. It’s up to you.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, and @cfreud.

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