With this in-depth look at the 5A Girls team state championship race, we reach the half-way point of our deep dives. Stay with us over the next few weeks as we progress through the remaining articles!

At this stage, almost midway through the season, Cherry Creek appears to own the driver’s seat in 5A Girls. In addition to the Bruins, however, we’ll take a close look at some other teams also tending their own set of hopes.

But, first, Cherry Creek…

This is very likely the best team the Bruins have ever put on the track. Cherry Creek is especially deep in the distance events, but they figure to score points in every event area except the jumps this spring (and even that’s not yet a closed door).

In distance, it’s mind-boggling to try to count all the different ways Cherry Creek might end up scoring at state. Riley Stewart is a certified danger at any distance from 400 meters on up. For all we know, she might be dangerous at 100 and 200 meters, as well, but those waters haven’t yet been tested.

Kinsey Christianson seems content for now to settle in at 400 and 800 meters, and she ranks #1 at 400 and #2 at 800 meters, right behind Stewart.

Addison Price, Addison Laughlin, Shelby Balding, Claire Semerod, Baylor Wolfe, and Kinley Wolfe all figure to take their own shots at points when the state meet rolls around. Never before has a team, any team, in 5A had such an opportunity to bring this much depth to the state meet. Maybe Niwot in 4A, but not anyone in 5A.

If the expression “embarrassment of riches” has any meaning in track and field, here might be an example.

And, for now, Cherry Creek is 27 seconds ahead of #2-ranked Arapahoe in the 4×800. That state title is inching very close to a done deal.

The sprints aren’t Creek’s strongest suit, but Kel McDavid is nipping at points in the 200 and is currently solidly in the points in the 400. Christianson, of course, is solidly at #1.

Cherry Creek is on the board at #6 in the 4×100, but owns #1 rankings at the 4×400 and SMR8. It appears for now that it’s going to take something special to knock either team out of first place when state comes around.

Creek is looking for answers in the 100 hurdles at the moment, but Iris Wang ranks #4 in the 300 hurdles. I don’t have names for the 4×400 for Cherry Creek, but it’s a reasonable bet that Wang is one of those names. Depth, however, is the name of the game at Cherry Creek, so there are likely multiple options for 4×400 legs.

Savannah Jorgens and Addison Edwards both figure for points in the throws. In fact, there’s some chance both could place at state in both throws, even though that’s not exactly what the rankings are saying at the moment.

The short of it is that Cherry Creek is going to be very difficult to beat come May 21.

Your best bet at toppling the Cherry Creek juggernaut comes from all the way across the Cherry Creek School District. That would be Cherokee Trail, and the teams are near-polar opposites. Near, not complete.

Where Cherry Creek doesn’t project for points in the jumps, Cherokee Trail figures to be spilling over with points from the jumps. Like Cherry Creek in distance, the potential sources of points are legion.

Only a freshman, Kaeli Powe of Cherokee Trail owns the top 5A girls triple jump mark at 38-0.5. PHOTO BY ALAN VERSAW

In the high jump, Ryen Galloway sits in a tie at #2. Sydnie Bernard sits in a tie at #10 in the pole vault, which is outside of points, but points could definitely fall her way if things go well at state. It’s in the long and triple jumps, however, that CT figures to shine the brightest. Sky Thompson, Kaeli Powe, and Natalie Rue rank 2-3-7 in the long jump. Powe and Rue go 1-3 in the triple.

If CT aims to make a run at a state title, they need every possible point in the jumps (to include the pole vault).

As dependent as the Cougars are on the jumps for their state title hopes, there are more arrows in the quiver.

In the sprints, CT boasts the talents of Symone Adams (#1 in the 100 and #2 in the 200) and Ka’Moyyah Allen (#7 in the 400). Here, as in the jumps, CT figures to gain points on Cherry Creek’s freight train.

If the state meet were held on today’s rankings, however, CT would be shut out in the distance events. It’s not that CT has no distance talent; it’s just that it’s exceedingly difficult to find a place in the 5A Girls field.

CT fares better at staying even with Cherry Creek, however, in the hurdles with Kaeli Powe checking in at #7 in the 100s. It may be worth some speculation, though, whether Powe runs the hurdles at state or not. If Powe figures heavily in the CT relays in another month, she probably doesn’t run the hurdles at state.

CT’s relays, though, do not currently project to be the source of a lot of points. Although the Cougars have a #2 ranking in the 4×100 (and very close to first), they don’t show up again in the top-tens of relay rankings except for a #9 in the 4×400 and a #6 in the SMR8. It’s impossible not to see this, at least for the moment, as the Achilles heel of the CT effort. It will make a great difference to CT’s state title hopes if the Cougars can bolster their relay standing between now and May 19 without giving up much in other events.

Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

That leaves us with the throws. CT’s only current top-ten ranking in the throws belongs to Natalia Leu-Pierre with a #6 in the shot put. That’s a solid ranking, but the Cougars may need more out of the throws to catch Cherry Creek.

Of all the teams in 5A Girls, Cherokee Trail is best positioned to catch Cherry Creek, but it’s a tall order even so.

And, if it’s a tall order for CT, it’s a taller order still for other teams in the chase.

Fort Collins holds some high cards in the persons of jumper/hurdler Brooke Naughton, thrower Laura Davis, and distance runner Ella Johns, but it would take a near-perfect meet from all three, and perhaps a little bit of a collapse from Creek and CT, for the Lambkins to come out on top. That’s not to say Fort Collins won’t pile up a decent heap of points at state. They will, but the chances of having the tallest heap at the end of the day on May 21 are slim.

Valor Christian holds the status of returning 5A state champs, but their puzzle looks a lot like Fort Collins’ at this point. The Eagles are very nicely represented in the distance events by Keeghan Edwards and Brooke Wilson. Peyton Holmes is showing up at the edge of points in the 100 and 200. Kylie Bahr stands at #3 in the 300 hurdles, but about two seconds behind first and second. Don’t be too quick to count Bahr out, however, as she won the state event last year.

After that, there’s one mid-range ranking for Valor in the relays and… crickets. If Valor is to successfully defend last year’s state title, they will need to see an enormous resurgence in the second half of the season.

Beyond these four teams, it’s mostly all about finding spots of excellence. Eaglecrest is loaded in sprints and sprint relays. Monarch will do very nicely in the sprints on the efforts of Julia Pattison. Chatfield is also a sprints and sprint relays kind of franchise, though they have a hurdles card to play as well in the person of Amelia Hubbell. Grandview is dramatically thinned down from last year’s state runner-up finish. Arapahoe is strong in the distance events but showing few signs of a state meet presence in the other disciplines. Pine Creek and Fossil Ridge own considerable spots of talents, but only isolated opportunities to put the kind of big points on the board that can thrust a team into the middle of the hunt.

Each of these situations, of course, is subject to revision as the season goes on. Injuries and late-season development are factors we have to wait and see on. For now, though, the story seems relatively easy to read. Cherry Creek holds the status of favorites. The Bruins wear the targets on their backs. Other teams know at least the general outlines of what they need to do to improve their positions.