Freud: Huskies cross-country favorites for three-peat? Not so fast (column)
So, milesplit.com is out with its preseason preview of the 4A girls cross-country scene and has proclaimed the following:
“We can’t talk about the team race without mentioning Battle Mountain. Last year they were third at (Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon), and they dominated the state. Lizzy Harding, Naomi Harding and Grace Johnson all return. Everyone will be eyeing them this year.
“After Battle Mountain, the team race looks somewhat up for grabs.”
The article goes on to talk about how Air Academy, Palmer Ridge and Niwot will be racing for second at the state meet.
Before we call off the entire cross-country season and hand the Huskies their third state title, Battle Mountain’s ladies need to address some questions.
Filling some big shoes
I will stipulate that having Harding, Harding and Johnson is a darn good core to have returning. Any coach in the state would sell a kidney to have three runners like this trio.
But it takes five to score in cross-country. This is not last August, after the Huskies won title No. 1 and returned everyone. You might notice that Liz Constein and Alex Raichart, for some reason, decided to go to college.
From previous episodes of “Battle Mountain cross-country,” recall that Constien won the individual state title last October. It’s a lot easier to win state when you start with just one point.
Meanwhile, Raichart was essentially a cyborg — we mean that in the nicest way. She didn’t have a bad day. She was always where she should be in ye olde pecking order, or higher.
These are not average graduation losses. As good as the Hardings are — very good — they need to raise their game, and be both excellent (check) and steady (to be determined). Meanwhile, Johnson, who has been stellar as an underclass-person, has to take a bigger role.
She can’t just be the really nice surprise as she was during the 2016 state meet — saving the day. Running as a veteran with expectations is a different role.
The chain reaction
The promotion to aces has ramifications on down the line. One of the trademarks of Huskies running is depth. Someone goes down, and coach Rob Parish just starts putting in other runners.
Senior Brogan Murray seems to be the No. 4 in our hypothetical lineup. While she was on the last year’s Nike Cross squad, the leap from supporting actor to lead is a big one.
And talk about jumps, here comes sophomore Emma Reeder. In about two months, as I write a postseason preview, Parish and I will have the same conversation we do every autumn — regional and state meets are always decided by the Nos. 4 and 5.
And like dominoes, the Huskies are going to need junior Joe (Josephine) Trueblood, senior Celia Badger, junior Hayley Diemar and sophomore Elliot Pribramsky to be ready-for-primetime players.
Competition against Air Academy, Palmer Ridge and Niwot is good. Competition within the team for varsity spots is what makes champions.
The rest of the state
Speaking of Air Academy. Palmer Ridge and Niwot and the 60 other teams in 4A are coming for you and really don’t like you. They surf the internet and are pretty sick of hearing about how awesome Battle Mountain is and how this little mountain town keeps on turning out studs.
Schools such as Air Academy, Palmer Ridge and Niwot all remember the tattoo job you performed on them at state last year — the Huskies had 59 points with Palmer Ridge a distant second at 157. They’ve been working to close the gap since that race ended.
How hungry are the Huskies? Will they be able to survive graduation losses? Will everyone step into new roles. We’ll find out in the next few months.
Perhaps, we shouldn’t just fast-forward to title No. 3 for Battle Mountain’s ladies.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.