Valor Christian coach Brian Kula knew his girls track team had the ability to be a championship contender. He was right: The Eagles captured the Class 4A state title.
Valor's team title was the finishing touch on the May 17-19 state track championships at Jeffco Stadium, which featured standout performances from athletes attending schools in Douglas County.
“The girls team was very strong this year,' said Kula. “They were very talented and executed very well at the meet. Our boys really overachieved and did better than they were supposed to. The weather wasn't ideal but our kids handled it well. They just went out sand competed.
“We kind of knew the girls would be in the mix with the kind of talent we had. I don't think any of use necessarily thought we could win by that margin and have that kind of a point total because you kind of expect to have a couple hiccups. We didn't miss too many steps.”
The weather was ideal the first day of the meet, but by May 19, when a few competitors had thoughts of going for state records, it rained in the morning and a cold wind blew all afternoon. It forced athletes to warm up longer and avoid resting, which would cause muscles to tighten up.
Valor Christian's girls racked up 151.20 points compared to 114 for second-place Niwot. The Eagles boys team was fourth with 50 points, two behind second-place Pueblo South and 11.50 shy of state champion Silver Creek.
Junior Anna Hall set a short-lived state record and won three events for the Valor girls. Sophomore Cole Sprout was a double distance winner and Dane Palazzo tied for first place in the 300-meter hurdles for the Eagles boys team.
Class 5A state champions from Douglas County schools included double winners Emily Sloan of Rock Canyon and Jenna Fitzsimmons of Mountain Vista. Junior Drake Nugent of Highlands Ranch won again in the shot put, Devin Cadena of Rock Canyon was the champion in the 5A 100-meter dash and Landon Rast of Legend was the individual champ in the 800-meter run.
Senior Maya Evans won the 100- and 200-meter dashes in Class 3A plus the long jump for the Lutheran girls team and she wrapped up her high school career with eight state titles. The three-time defending champion boys team was fifth in the team standings, but the 4x200 relay team of Luke Arkell, Jared Ammon, Samuel Ness and Kameron Varney set a state 3A record of 1:28.01 in winning the event.
“Maya is a special talent,” said Lutheran coach Darwin Horan. “She's a good teammate and one of the greatest athletes to ever participate in Colorado. We have a young squad of the girls side and we will be very competitive for years to come. On the boys side, we had a key injury to one of our top sprinters and we had a few missteps at the meet. We still battled to take fourth overall and did set the state record in the 4x2, which was set in 2002.”
Hall broke the state 300 hurdles record set by her friend Sloan with a 40.76 clocking in the 4A preliminary race on May 18. But Sloan came back a short time later in the 5A prelims with a 40.60 which was a new all-classification standard.
Both girls were looking forward to running even faster in the finals but the poor weather conditions put a damper on those thoughts.
Hall finished the meet first in the 4A 100 hurdles with a 14.12 time, won the 300 hurdles in 42.67 and captured the long jump in 18-9.75. She was also second in the 200-meter dash.
“I wish I could have won the 200 but she (Discovery Canyon's Lauren Gale) was better than me. That happens.” said Hall. “I was happy with the meet and glad I was able to pick up 38 points for the team. In the hurdles I really went for it in the prelim race because I knew it was going to be the only day with good weather. I hit my steps. I didn't know what time I ran and then I looked at the board and it was awesome. With running the 300 my legs were a little sore in the finals. The final day was all about placing. I was just trying to do the best I could. It was all about points.”
Sloan, headed to Oregon to continue her track career, was especially happy to win the 300-meter hurdles after falling last year going over the final hurdle and crawling to a second-place finish despite having a big lead. She had won the 300 hurdles in 2016.
In the finals on May 19, Sloan won her fourth straight 100 hurdles state title in 13.59 and took the 300 hurdles in 41.42. She was second in the 200 meters.
“In the 300 finals, I hit my steps perfectly,” said Sloan. “It wasn't a (personal record) but it felt good. Last year was a bummer. I was going so hard for the state record. I just had to forget about last year but I heard the announcer say in Lane 5, the state runner-up. That kind of fired me up. It was a good reminder.”
Sprout, the 4A cross country champion, set an all-time Colorado 3,200 record of 9:01.53 on May 4 at the Jeffco League championships. He captured state titles in both the 1,600 and 3,200 runs with respective times of 4:14.54 and 9:22.10. The 1,600 was held May 18 and the 3,200 on May 19.
“I was going for the record in the 3,200 and that was the goal but the weather wasn't great,” said Sprout. “It was a tough race. Next year, I want to break the mile record and take down my 2-mile record. I'm looking forward to next year to see what I can do.'”
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