September 1, 2013 Updated: September 1, 2013 at 6:07 pm
A team-by-team look at boys' cross country programs.
Coach: Robert Duensing (fourth season)
Key players: Kyle White, sr.; Willy Martinez, sr.; Darius Daniels, sr.; Colton James-Wells, jr.
Outlook: Doherty missed qualifying for state by only eight places last season. It was a hard pill to swallow especially while watching rivals Pine Creek and Rampart scoot into the event in front of the Spartans.
This season though, the Spartans are older and faster. And yes, a bit more confident. White, Martinez and Daniels are just months removed from qualifying for state in the 4x800, and they will join Colton James-Wells, who was the team's No. 1 runner last season for a pretty deep attack.
The Spartans return four of their five top runners.
Coach: Ben Montoya (28th season)
Key players: Dylan Day, sr.; Phillip Thomas, jr.
Outlook: Day is the school record holder in the mile, a Junior Olympian and a state track qualifier. He will have to be the backbone of an inexperienced Trojans' team. Montoya is excited to see how much this team can improve by season's end.
Coach: Gary Weston (27th season)
Key players: Ben Schneiderman, sr.; Ty Hodges, sr.; Mitch Dickenson, sr.; Gabe Lawerence, sr.; Josh Daurn, sr.; Brandon Poulos, sr.; Jack Quinn, jr.
Outlook: Liberty has a scroll of great seasons led by a list of great leaders. Garrett Kenyon led the Lancers two seasons ago and Clayson Shumway took runner-up at state for Liberty a season ago.
Both are gone now.
Early in the season, it appears Schneiderman may be next on the list to take over the role. After a fifth-place finish at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede Schneiderman plans to fill some of the team's voids.
"My goal is to make state this year. I've been working to get there, but I don't really know how to take this finish," said Schneiderman who finished the Stampede in 17 minutes, 26 seconds. "I guess my expectations are going up a bit right now. Really, before this, I just thought I'd try and help fill some of the shoes this team lost."
The Lancers hope to qualify for state as a team this season.
Coach: Rob Gilliam (second year)
Key players: Phoenix Barnhart, sr.; Dominic Walker, jr.; Will Brown, jr.; Aaron Brown, jr.; Aaron Rickey, so.; Ben Warth, so.
Outlook: Gilliam said the Terrors are eager to return to state after missing out on a trip a season ago. Barnhart and Walker lead a close-knit team that should be deep enough to make a push at it.
Coach: Mark Weeks (fourth season)
Key players: Zachary Alhamra, jr.; Caleb Ingram, sr.; Tucker Klein, jr.; Tanner Palacios, fr.
Outlook: Pine Creek lost some depth with Andrew Kearse and Grant Robinson graduating, but the Eagles may be even better in 2013.
Alhamra and Ingram return as Pine Creek's one-two punch, while Tucker Klein returns and highly-touted freshman Tanner Palacios joins the already talented cast. The Eagles finished 17th at the state meet a season ago.
Coach: Robert Young (second season)
Key players: Ben Dingman, so.; Reid Bartels, sr.; Cody Roth, so.
Outlook: Rampart has six runners who could run sub-17 minutes this season. Led by Bartels, a senior, and 5A's fastest freshman from a season ago in Dingman, the Rams are looking to make a repeat visit to the state meet where they finished seventh.
Pine Creek, Rampart and Doherty all look capable of qualifying for state this season.
Coach: Marcy Epperson (13th season)
Key players: Alex Knoedler, sr.; Logan Green, so.; Michael Katchmar, fr.; Brett Kraft, sr. Kyle O'Rourke, so.; Alex Skerjanec, sr.; Brandon Trujillo, jr.
Outlook: Just like the girls' team, the boys hope to make a run at qualifying for state this season. As of now, Epperson said the gap between her first and seventh runners is too big for that to happen.
Coach: Stan Lambros
Key players: Tristan Pelto, sr.; Tristan Myers, sr.; Will Mayhew fr.
Outlook: Cheyenne Mountain is another one of the handful of teams that have the real possibility of winning a state title. Last season, the Indians finished second to an out-of-this-world Coronado team led by perhaps the fastest kid in Colorado, Bailey Roth.
Before they look to make another push though, they'll have to build up and shrink times this season. Lambros' team lost its one-two combo of Josh Fowler and Zach Kuzma, who both placed in the top-15 at state last season, along with three other varsity seniors.
But it's not all bad news. Pelto, the team's third guy last season, joins freshman sensation Mayhew and Myers in a team that figures to be in the mix once again.
The Classical Academy
Coach: Alan Versaw (14th season)
Key players: Conner Wilburn, sr.; Chandler Ryd, sr.; Everett Johnson, jr., Ben Hook, sr.; Sam Purvis, sr.; Collin Eaton, sr.; Michael Oldach, so.; Will Hook, so.; Tanner Norman, fr.
Outlook: Last year the program moved up to compete at the 4A level and finished a respectable eighth. This season could be better. While the move to the larger classification is still a big step up, the team is a year older and Versaw expects plenty of depth to carry them. Last year's team was filled with youth, but that only means that this season there's plenty of returning experience.
Coach: Doug Hugill (15th season)
Key players: Bailey Roth, sr.; Adam Egger, sr., Stefan Rodriguez, jr.
Outlook: Led by four-time state champion Roth, the Cougars are set to make a run at a second consecutive state title. Hugill knows it won't be easy though as Coronado will have two of the state's top teams in its region in Cheyenne Mountain and Pueblo West.
"(We) could easily be third in the region, but finish top-5 at state," the 15th-year coach said.
Individually, Roth, who won state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 in track, actually slipped and fell in last year's cross country state meet, earning him a painful second-place finish. And while he likes talking about himself as much as he likes getting his teeth pulled, there's no doubt he will be looking to make amends for his fall. Elsewhere, Egger, a state placer in the 3,200 last season, and Rodriguez, who was a part of the varsity team that won the cross country state title, join Roth on another dangerous Cougars team.
Coach: Christina Miner (eighth season)
Key players: Jericho Simmons, sr.; Matthew Beck, sr.; Andrew Wireman, jr.
Outlook: Discovery Canyon is extremely young. Simmons, Beck and Wireman will have to take charge to pull the Thunder along.
Coach: Suzanne Kuehl (30th season)
Key players: Hunter Shuman, jr.; Christopher Ecklund, sr.; Austin Bach, jr.; Caleb McGuffey, so.; Jeffrey Naumiec, jr.; Cameron Barry, fr.; Dallin Smith, jr.; Ian McInfore, sr.
Outlook: Lewis-Palmer returns four state qualifiers from last season. Shuman and Ecklund should be the driving force behind a Rangers team that interestingly enough have four home-schooled kids on the squad.
Coach: Carl Burgess (eighth season)
Key players: Jordan Jones, sr.
Outlook: What kind of season Mesa Ridge will have depends on blind luck. Kind of. The Grizzlies are a bit of a mystery with a ton of new runners joining a team led by four-year varsity runner Jordan Jones.
Coach: Walt Wilson (10th season)
Key players: Morgan Cisna, sr.
Outlook: Mitchell's cross country team has seen low numbers for the past handful of years - until this season. The Marauders doubled in size from a year ago. Wilson said Mitchell will have no trouble fielding a full roster at meets this season.
Coach: Larry Rudnicki (first season)
Key players: Eric Hamer, jr.; Tom Herebic, jr. Zach Blehm, sr.; Liam Cox, so. Josh Bethany, sr.
Outlook: Palmer Ridge finished seventh at state a season ago - but now it's a night-and-day difference. The Bears are without four of its top seven runners from last season and its coach Kandee Khodl, who is on maternity leave.
But they should still be a threat in 4A. Hamer, a regional runner-up last season, returns as well as Herebic and Blehm, who were both in the top five on the team a year ago. Rudnicki said guys will have to step up for the Bears to be successful.
Coach: Mike Marty (sixth season)
Key players: Julio Lopez, sr.; Brennan Norris, sr.; Matthew Medina sr.; DeQuan Yon, jr.
Outlook: Sierra has an extremely diverse and close-knit team in 2013. Marty said the experience has been incredible to watch.
Meanwhile on the course, the profound senior leadership will be a major strength, but depth will be an issue once again. So far, the Stallions do not have a runner that has broken 18 minutes.
Coach: Erik Nelson (10th season)
Key players: Shao Jun Liu, sr.; Donnie Byers, jr.; Wesley Simmons, jr.; Mason Durfey, jr.; Matthew Arbegast, fr.; Max Martinez, fr.
Outlook: Jun-Lio leads Widefield with a best time of 17:04 from a season ago. Byers and Simmons should be a welcome two-three punch with times posted last season in the mid-18 minutes.
Coach: Ron Payton (12th season)
Key players: David Higgins, sr.; Neil Oppedal, jr.; Brett Oppedal, jr.; Brent Vervolin, jr.; Charley Schoenberger, jr.
Outlook: For the past two decades Payton has been teaching kids the finer points of running and what it means to be a runner. So when he said his goal is to drop all of his runners' times by a minute from last year, you tend to pay attention. Woodland Park doesn't have any clear top-echelon runners, but it should be interesting to watch the team's progression.
Colorado Springs Christian School
Coach: Mike Caton (13th season)
Key players: Danny Marsh, sr.; Zach Johnson, jr.
Outlook: CSCS isn't deep. Caton would be the first to tell you that. But the Tigers are led by Marsh, who won the 800-meter championship in track last season, as well as Johnson, a junior, who Caton thinks will have a breakout year.
Coach: Jim Van Hoessen (10th season)
Key players: Alex Hilton, sr.
Outlook: For 10 years Hoessen has always taught character and heart over a certain running technique or new-age stretch. So it's fitting that Hoessen's team, led by Hilton, who is enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, is only focused on one thing this season - showing heart at all times.
Coach: Jaclyn Roberson (fifth season)
Key players: Marcus Rodhom, sr.
Outlook: Manitou Springs doesn't have the depth it has seen in the past. However, Rodholm should bring excitement to the program. The newcomer to cross country finished fifth in the state track meet last season.
Coach: Debbie Hellman (seventh season)
Key players: Joe Van Sant, sr.; Andy Tapparo, sr.; Matt Tell, sr.; Connor Gosselin, sr; Keith Kangiser, sr.; Nathaniel Bodnar, fr.; Andrew Maal, so.; Joe Carter, sr.; David Van Gampleare, fr; Mike Klopfenstein, jr.
Outlook: Led by Van Sant, St. Mary's has been working all summer as a team to be a threat in 3A. Van Sant and Tapparo will be a nice one-two punch for this deep team.
Pikes Peak Christian
Coach: Lisa Raterree (sixth season)
Key players: Caleb Jones, jr.
Outlook: The Eagles have missed qualifying for state by two points each of the last two seasons. This season, due to runners moving and graduating, the Eagles return only one state qualifier to their team.
Coach: Tim Van Sickler (10th season)
Key players: Tristan Heffner, sr.; Robby Schuemann, sr.; Laybe Higgins, jr.; Keamey Nevills, jr.; Quinton Harris, so.; Rylan Howard, fr.; Garhett Shaw, fr.
Outlook: Schuemann is looking to make it a perfect 4 for 4 at making it to the 2A state meet. This season he'll have to lead a team with no other state qualifiers, two varsity runners from different schools and a handful of new runners.
Coach: Steve Read (eighth season)
Key players: Jacob Evangelista, sr.; Josh Briar, jr.; Alex Hawkins, jr.; Tyler Gard, so.; Miles Hatton, so.; Harley Morgan, fr.
Outlook: Read said he thinks Vanguard could be even better than last year's sixth-place finisher at state. Despite losing three of the five of his scoring varsity runners, Read is confident the Coursers are primed to be a threat at state once again. Evangelista and Briar return from last year's team, while Hatton and Morgan are expected to make a big impact in each of their first seasons. Read projects Vanguard to finish at state anywhere from eighth place to second.