Gazette Preps boys' cross country capsules

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5A

Coronado

Coach: Grant Stoughton

Key returners: Ben Swanson, jr.; Conor Strizich, sr.; Andrew Burton, sr.; Charlie Schroeder, so.

Outlook: The Cougars didn't have a top-100 finisher in last October's 5A cross country meet, but that should change this time around under first-year coach Stoughton. At Friday's Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, Swanson and Strizich stopped the clock in 12th and 13th place, respectively, giving the season a solid start.

Doherty

Coach: Robert Duensing

Key returner: Hayden Martinez, sr.

Outlook: Martinez, a three-time state qualifier, along with an experienced senior class, hope to finally land a team berth in this year's 5A state cross country tournament. The Spartans have finished one place from qualifying at every regional since 2010.

Fountain-Fort Carson

Coach: Ben Montoya

Key returners: James Thomas, sr.; Daniel Devine, sr.

Outlook: The youth movement is in full effect for the Trojans, with Thomas and Devine providing the only returning letter-winners with varsity experience.

Liberty

Coach: Mike Patrizi

Key returners: Jeff Zelkin, jr.; Will Phillips, so.; Steve Petty, sr.

Outlook: It's a new era for the Lancers, who for the first time have a coach other than Gary Weston since the school opened in 1987. Patrizi, who recently started a cross country program at nearby Chinook Trails Elementary School, has a young but hungry team that can't be underestimated.

Palmer

Coach: Robert Gilliam

Key returners: Awet Beraki, sr.; Max Robinson, jr.; Nolan Jenkins, jr.; Gus McIntyre, so.

Outlook: While Beraki's top-20 finish at state led a ninth-place team effort a season ago, the Terrors seem to have more depth for the upcoming season. McIntyre placed sixth at Friday's Cheyenne Mountain Stampede in the 5A boys' division, while Robinson placed 18th and two others hit the finish not long after.

Rampart

Coach: Robert Young

Key returners: Connor McCabe, sr.; Jacob Dewey, sr.; Sadio Fenner, sr.

Outlook: Young thinks the Rams, a top-10 team finisher at state in five of his six seasons with the program, can compete for a state title this season. McCabe finished sixth overall last October and is one of the top returning seniors in 5A. Dewey (17th at state last year) and Fenner (61st) had solid track seasons last spring and give Rampart a solid 1-2-3 punch.

4A

Air Academy

Coach: Chuck Schwartz

Key returners: Dillon Powell, jr.; Cal Banta, jr.; Luke Thurman, sr.

Outlook: The Kadets lost 4A individual state champ Ethan Powell to graduation, but a handful of returning letter-winners are ready to take command. Banta narrowly missed winning the 4A race at the recently held Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, while Thurman took eighth after chopping nearly 30 seconds off his time at state in 2016. Powell finished 15th at state last season.

Cañon City

Coach: Marcy Epperson

Key returners: Matthew Morgenthaler, jr.; Hunter Wall, jr.

Outlook: Wall returns for his second year on varsity, and Epperson sees rapid improvement for his second time around. Epperson is also impressed with Morgenthaler, a "pleasant surprise" and first-year varsity athlete.

Cheyenne Mountain

Coach: Stan Lambros

Key returners: Thomas Chaston, sr.; Walker Rudolph, sr.

Outlook: Chaston has impressed early, winning Friday's Cheyenne Mountain Stampede with the area's best time (16:27) that was a 45-second improvement over his 41st-place effort at the state meet last October. The Indians finished 13th in the team standings a year ago but with experience on their side, should see a dramatic improvement in that department in 2017.

Discovery Canyon

Coach: Michael Jordan

Key returners: JoJo Dicke, sr.; Nick Shampoe, sr.; Daniel Lisenbee, sr.; Kyle Clancy, sr.; Hayden Beck, sr.

Outlook: Jordan, in his first season, inherits a Thunder team that returns its top five runners from last season with sights on improving from a 12th-place team finish at state.

Harrison

Coach: Molly McCann

Key returners: Matthew Terry, sr.; Steven Vasquez, sr.

Outlook: McCann can't say enough about her team's attitude, passion and support in building the cross country culture at Harrison. The next step is seeing that hard work pay off in terms of improvement on the clock.

Lewis-Palmer

Coach: Mike Diamond

Key returners: Alex Fernandez, sr.; Josh Pierce, jr.; Patrick Jirele, so.; John Morrison, so.; Isaac Cade, so.; Cooper Shuman, jr.; Max Lantz, so.

Outlook: The Rangers return seven letter-winners from last season but no state qualifiers. Still, Diamond likes his team's experience along with their training regimen during the offseason and has big hopes for the season ahead.

Mesa Ridge

Coach: Carl Burgess

Key returners: Matthew Roberds, jr.; Isaiah Crawford, sr.; Richie Roberds, jr.; Jayden Peterson, jr.; Nicholas Alba, so.; Tyler Bizzell, so.

Outlook: Matthew Roberds highlighted the Grizzlies' season in 2016, winning the 4A Colorado Springs Metro League individual championship and later placing eighth at the 4A state meet. He and his twin brother, Richie, also play on the boys' soccer team.

Palmer Ridge

Coach: Rob Collins

Key returners: Ryan Matson, sr.; Maxwell Herebic, sr.; Kieran Nay, sr.; Brandon Hippe, jr.

Outlook: The Bears won the 4A state team title a year ago and have plenty of pieces in place to defend it under a first-year coach. Even with the loss of three seniors who placed among the top 16 at last October's state championships, Palmer Ridge, led by seniors Matson and Herebic and an experienced corps of underclassmen, could be hard to beat with that depth.

Pine Creek

Coach: Steve Flannery

Key returners: Drew Kroeker, jr.; James Hibbard, jr.; Andrew Murphy, sr.; William Hibbard, jr.

Outlook: Flannery takes over a young program from longtime coach Max Oliver and has big hopes despite its overall inexperience. Kroeker, Murphy and both Hibbard brothers all finished in the top 20 at this week's meet at Cherry Creek, powering a fourth-place team finish.

Widefield

Coach: Erik Nelson

Key returners: Cole Munoz, sr.; Ryan Outler, jr.; Beslim Torres-Valle, sr.; Miles Mena, jr.; Logan Johnson, sr.; Jon Cabrera, so.

Outlook: The Gladiators made history in 2016 by finishing a program-best second in the 4A team standings at the state meet. Although Max Martinez graduated after a stellar four-year career, Munoz seems poised to fill his shoes on the heels of a seventh-place individual finish at state. Outler placed 31st and should improve as a junior, but Nelson is concerned by the gaps between his runners.

3A

The Classical Academy

Coach: Alan Versaw

Key returners: Canaan Lamberth, sr.; Ryan Moen, sr.; Mason Norman, so.

Outlook: The Titans finished second in the team standings at the 2016 3A state meet, and with its top three runners back, should challenge for another state title. Lamberth finished fourth overall at state last season and will look to continue the legacy of departed senior Tanner Norman, who won the last two individual 3A cross country titles.

Woodland Park

Coach: Mike Schoudel

Key returners: Alex Conlin, sr.; Justin Harrell, jr.; Cameron Howard, jr.; Joshua Higgins, jr.; Brad Conlin, jr.

Outlook: Schoudel begins his first season with Woodland Park in the midst of a surge in participation with twice as many runners as last year. If there's a down side, it's inexperience and a lack of a standout lead runner.

2A

Colorado Springs School

Coach: Jocelyn Burke

Key returners: Tyler Brown, jr.; Clay Role, so.

Outlook: Burke is focused on developing a young team and gaining racing experience. Brown is the Kodiaks' top returning runner.

Pikes Peak Christian

Coach: Lisa Ratterree

Key returner: Nick Bellew, sr.

Outlook: Ratterree hopes for continued quality over quantity on this year's team, which has only four members but is led by Bellew, a three-time 2A state qualifier.

The Vanguard School

Coach: Adam Rich

Key returners: Nick Lovato, sr.; Evan Morgan, sr.

Outlook: The Coursers won the school's first state title last October behind a senior-laden squad but are much younger this time around. Lovato and Morgan will lead a team that will need a push from an infusion of freshmen.