This year was the third installment of the Western High School Indoor Open, and while it may appear that the numbers were not as great this year that it wasn't going to stop any of the athletes who made the trek to the beautiful Mountaineer Field House at Western State Colorado University.
Unfortunately in my rush to pack Thursday night and prep for my lesson plans on Friday I seemed to forget my memory card for my camera. Now normally this wouldn't be a problem, but as it turns out Gunnison is much smaller than I remembered and the Walmart, the second smallest in the nation, did not carry the correct memory card that is required for my camera.
The Western Slope was very well represented at the meet, with their athletes either taking the top marks or up in top contention in nearly every event. While the majority of coverage tends to focus on the Front Range, I assure you that no matter what classification you are it would not be wise at all to count out the Western Slope schools.
Zaccre Kenward has found himself as the expert multi-tool to fit whatever job the Palisade Bulldog's need him to do. The day began with the boys long jump where Bryce Coop of Manitou Springs and Kenward went back and forth for the leader board. At the end of the competition Coop came out ahead with a mark of 21-0.75. Brianna VanVleet looks to be back to her championship season form in the long jump pit as she won the long jump with a jump of 17-4.5. Kenward took home the triple jump title with a mark of 44-9, setting a new meet record by over two feet.
At the same time, the hurdle prelims were getting under way. First up was the girls where Charise Crabb of Eagle Valley took the top mark in both the prelims and finals over Mary McCowen of Cheyenne Mountain. Crabb's time of 9.16 places her in the top 10 for indoor performances this indoor season. Crabb also took top honors in the 60m dash with a time of 8.20.
If you don't know the name Mason Anthony yet, it is time to take notice. Mason is one of the top returning hurdlers in 3A and has been making waves all winter. He took the top mark in both the prelims and the finals, even with a near fall after clipping the first two hurdles of the finals. Once again the Western Slope was right near the lead, this time in the form of Bayfield hurdler Carl Heide. Heide improved his season best to 8.68.
The Western State meet brings in the unique obstacle of the indoor steeplechase. Most distance runners here in Colorado almost never get to train for this event since it is not an official CHSAA event.
It is quite entertaining, as a hurdle coach, taking the last twenty minutes or so of practice this past week to teach distance runners how to clear makeshift barriers using hurdles. If it helped I will never know, but Palmer Ridge sophomore Emily Gentry took home the win in a time of 6:19.98, while Chaparral senior Tad Trimarco won the boys title in a new meet record time of 5:00.92.
Following the trend of setting new records were Salida's Taryn Ceglowski and Palmer Ridge's Jeremy Meadows in the 1600s. Ceglowski obliterated the previous record by 10 seconds and setting a new mark of 5:22.59 at 7,717 feet! Exceler8 placed seven runners in the top 10 of the mile with Jeremy Meadows taking the crown. It was a dual for most of the race with Meadows and Air Academy's Ethan Powell matching moves until the final lap when the Palmer Ridge senior turned on the afterburners.
Katelyn Mitchem made the journey south on I-25 and over Monarch pass to set her own new record in the 800m with a time of 2:24.95. Meadows narrowly missed winning his second event of the day, finishing in a time of 2:01.60, but he narrowly missed Rifle senior Jack Rubalcave's first heat time of 2:01.42.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Eagle Valley freshman Shelbi Lubbers taking home the high jump title with a clearance of 5-3. Rumor has it that the freshman prefers volleyball over track, so it sounds as if Coach Shroll may have some convincing to do in order to get this young star to stay out on the track.
There were some athletes unattached, but the largest contingents by far came from the very dangerous 3A Elizabeth Cardinals, 4A Palisade Bulldogs, and 4A Palmer Ridge (under the Exceler8 TC club name).
For the majority of track athletes the focus now shifts to the CHSAA outdoor season that begins February 27th and the first round of meets on the weekend of March 10th and 11th. Looking at the results it appears track season is back, and we could see some very good times and marks to start the season off with a bang.