Kaitlyn Benner figured she was going to go away to school. Far, far away.
Madeline Alm had similar feelings, figuring her high school graduation would be the perfect jumping-off point to explore the great wide world beyond the borders of Colorado.
It didn't happen for either of them. Rather than packing their bags for out-of-state journeys, Alm and Benner instead landed at CU. Now, alongside freshman twins Elissa and Karina Mann, they are part of a quartet of Monarch alums hoping to spearhead a strong performance for the Buffs' cross country team at the NCAA championships on Saturday.
"Initially, I didn't want to stay in Colorado," Alm said. "I'd grown up here my whole life and I wanted to try something new. But the more I looked at schools, I just decided I wasn't ready to leave Colorado yet. So I decided to stay and CU was my top in-state choice.
"With Kaitlyn, we qualified for Nike Nationals together, and it was the first year (Monarch) had ever qualified. So we were part of a lot of firsts at Monarch together, and it's really fun to carry that on this year."
Alm is the elder statesperson of the bunch, a senior who placed eighth at this year's Pac-12 championships and finished 51st at the national final a year ago. Alm also placed seventh at the NCAA Mountain Regional a week ago.
Benner is just a sophomore but has emerged this season as one of CU's top runners, finishing second overall at the Pac-12 finals and repeating that effort last week at regionals.
Like Alm, Benner never visualized her collegiate running dreams unfolding so close to her back yard.
"I never wanted to go to CU. Ever. It was too close to home," Benner said. "My mom made me go on a tour here my junior year and I thought, 'This is the dumbest thing ever. I'm definitely not going here.' Then we took visits to other schools, mostly on the West Coast, but every time we went to one I compared it to CU. I wasn't really sure I could run for this program, but I'm glad they gave me a shot."
Coach Mark Wetmore and his various coaching staffs over the past two decades have never been shy about going after Colorado-bred talent. Still, having four talented runners from the same local high school can only bolster the profile of Wetmore's already-prestigious program among the many talented high school programs in the running-happy community of Boulder County.
Wetmore said the Mann sisters are taking a redshirt season this fall.
"I think it's good for the team that we take extra effort with the Colorado recruits," Wetmore said. "I don't know that we need a pipeline from any one high school. Monarch has excellent coaches and almost always has excellent teams. The athletes are not over-trained, but they also come from a culture that takes itself seriously. So far, we're 4-for-4 with being happy with our Monarch runners. But we're happy to get anyone local."