Cross Country: State meet returning to Colorado Springs for two more years

Class 5A state cross country meet 10.26.13
Runners in the Class 5A boys state cross country race approach the first of two open bars in the opening stretch of the race on Oct. 26, 2013, at the Norris Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs. Going through or beside the barns has become a strategic move in the state race, which will remain at the facility for the next two seasons. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | The response is likely to be mixed, but the state cross country meet will return to Colorado Springs for at least two more years.

The Colorado High School Activities Association announced Thursday that its cross country committee had approved another two-year cycle for the Class 2A-5A state races at the Norris Penrose Events Center, where the 2012 and 2013 state races were held. The decision must be confirmed in January by the governing body’s legislative committee.

While a number of coaches don’t like the layout of the course — which begins in the equestrian area of the sprawling facility and ends with the finish line inside a stadium — some competitors such as Smoky Hill junior Blake Yount, do.

Yount finished sixth overall in the 5A boys state race on Oct. 26 — more than 60 places higher than the previous season — and credited his familiarity and enjoyment of the course as part of the key to his improvement.

“I’m going to miss knowing what the course is like since this is my fourth or fifth time running in with state and pre-state,” Yount said after the state race. “I knew all the tricks and where the soft sand was and everything. …I’d like to see it back here.”

Strategically, local runners were starting to get a feel for the course, for the better or worse.

Grandview’s Erin Norton ran her last race on the course this season when she finished third overall in the 5A girls race, but had very specific instructions for her team this time, only to see it backfire a bit on her.

Coming off the starting line, runners head for a series of two open barns that they can run through or skip by heading off to the left. In the first season of racing, many competitors went through the barn, but found it added distance, so this season nearly all veered off to the left, creating a bit of a bottleneck in a tight space.

“At the starting line, I was like ‘ladies, nobody goes through the barns’ and they were like ‘ok,’ and then I see every single person going off to the side, so I was probably in like 200th place,” Norton said with a laugh after her state race. “I told all my girls to do that and I guess it wasn’t a good idea.”

Prior to the last two seasons in Colorado Springs, Smoky Hill hosted the state meet in 2010 and 2011 at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds. Other recent venues included Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, the El Pomar Youth Sports Complex in Colorado Springs and Kent Denver School.

The state venue may move again in two years, with sites in Jefferson County, Greeley and Lyons in front of the cross country committees as possible destinations.

Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel