Western's six-lane, 200 meter track is the highest collegiate indoor track in the world.
Western State's Mountaineer Field House in Gunnison is one of the premiere indoor tracks on Colorado's western slope. The six-lane, 200 meter track with a wide curve is just four years old, and something to behold.
While the air is thin (Gunnison sits at 7,700 feet), competing on the highest collegiate indoor track in the world does have a ring to it, even if it comes with a not-so subtle burn in the lungs after just a few seconds of sprinting.
The venue typically hosts college meets, but high schoolers will get a chance to step on this track in two weeks for the Western State High School Open.
Adding to the prestige of racing at the highest track in the country, Western is making an event out of the meet, adding two clinics the day before.
"We will be offering both a weight throw and steeplechase clinic," Lindsey Grasmick explained. Grasmick serves as the head track and field coach at Western. "The clinics start at 6 p.m. Friday to introduce these new events to high school athletes. Both of these have been a hit in the past, so we thought a clinic the evening before would be great."
(Yes -- you read that right. There will be an indoor steeple at this meet. But don't expect any insane Youtube videos of water-jump fails -- there is no water jump.)
Grasmick hopes that despite the elevation of the venue, the event itself will lend to a competitive meet as it has in the past. The meet will host traditionally run events, per the usual, though there's an extra incentive in the mile.
"Just last weekend, Emma Coburn, broke the Colorado mile record on our track running a blazing 4:38.08," Grasmick said. "It has been inspiring for the athletes on our team, as Emma and her training partner, Aisha Praught-Leer, have been working out on our indoor facility for most of the winter."
Surely, this mark will be on every boys mind who line up for the mile -- Last year two boys dipped under 4:38.
Pending any crazy snow storm that closes Monarch Pass, I'll be on hand for coverage.
The meet starts with the boys long jump at 9 a.m. while track events start at 10:30 a.m with the prelims of the girls 60 hurdles.
Solid Across the Board Last Year
Despite the altitude, last year's meet was solid all around. The sprint and field events provided some great performances, which was somewhat expected given the thin air.
Eagle Valley senior Charise Crabb dominated the 60 hurdles, running 9.16 in the prelim, and 9.23 in the final. Crabb also took the 60 in 8.20, just ahead of Palmer Ridge's Caroline Giusti and Hope Busath. The duo went 2-3 in 8.44 and 8.57.
In the boys 200, Lakewood's Brock Miller blitzed the one-lap race in 22.86, leading the top-four under 24-seconds. Miller also took the 400 in a feet-blistering 52.16. The time was just ahead of Elizabeth's Mason Anthony, who ran 52.65.
Anthony went on to win the 60 hurdles in 8.54, however, while Miller opted for a hurdle-free 60, running 7.17 in the 60.
The girls 400 saw three runners dip under 64-seconds with Vista Ridge's Jewel Inlow taking the race in 1:02.36.
The field events saw quite a few impressive performances as well.
Paonia's Brianna Van Vleet jumped 17-04.50 for a dominating three-foot victory in the long jump. Cedardedge's Katie Hyke was the lone entrant in the shot. Despite not having competition, she still tallied a mark of 38-08, while Eagle Valley's Shelbi Lubbers claimed the high jump in 5-03.
For the boys Bryce Coop tallied a big performance in the long jump, winning the event in 21-00.70, while Paonia's Warren Minerich claimed the shot with a toss of 46-03 and Palisade's Zaccre Kenward took the triple jump in 44-09.
While the altitude is no friend to distance runners here, the meet still drew some top talent from around the state. Salida's Taryn Ceglowski took Broomfield's Katelyn Mitchem to the wire in the mile. Ceglowski won the event in 5:22, just ahead of Mitchem's 5:24 -- both impressive times given the thin air.
Mitchem double back for the 800, winning in 2:24, ahead of Air Academy's Lilliana Hamilton, who ran 2:28.
Rifle's Jack Rubalcave led three boys under 2:04 in the 800. Rubalcave won the event in 2:01.
Why anyone would volunteer to run eight laps around a 200-meter track at 7,700 feet seems a bit crazy (I have run 25 laps around their outdoor track, however...) But yes, there were four entrants in the boys 3,200, which did include two sub-11s. Eagle Valley's Aiden Branch took the win in 10:54. I can only imagine how much his lungs burned after that.
For more information about this year's meet, visit: Western State High School Open