Noah Gabel heads toward the finish on Vista Ridge's record-setting 4x400. Photo by Alan Versaw.
The field of 4A boys contenders was a field of team specialites. Coronado came to the state meet as a distance-heavy team. Cheyenne Mountain was another distance-heavy team, but one with a strong additional dimension of jumps.
In the end, however, the two teams that ended up dominating the scoring were both sprint and sprint relay kind of teams. Vista Ridge and Valor Christian excel in going fast, whether in individual event situations or as groups of four.
That point was made early and often during the state meet, starting with Valor shattering the state all-classification record for the 4x200 in Thursday's prelims. Valor's 1:25.46 trimmed .13 off the Colorado record for that event. In finals, Valor was almost a second slower, but still defeated Vista Ridge by a razor-thin margin of .04 second.
Valor and Vista Ridge engaged in a lot of back-and-forth over the course of the three day meet, with Valor typically getting the better end of things in the 100, 200, 400, 4x100, and 4x400 via the speed of Christian McCaffrey and Greg Popylisen. In a contest between teams with largely overlapping specialty areas, you would expect that kind of advantage would get the job done.
Nevertheless, Vista Ridge was able to keep things close through a scattering of hurdle and jumps points and a nifty little assist from Canon City's Zac McCoy who won the 200 and 400, thus diminishing the point differential between Valor and Vista Ridge in those two events. Entering the final event of the meet, the 4x400 meter relay, Vista Ridge had built a 70-60 lead. The only conceivable way for Valor to win the state title, then, would be to share it with Vista Ridge. That would have required a Valor win and a Vista Ridge DNS or DQ.
Neither the DQ and DNS was in the Vista Ridge game plan. Vista Ridge wrangled the lead on the third leg of the relay with a nice split from hurdler Darrian Morgan. Morgan handed to jumper Noah Gabel to finish the job, and Gabel was never seriously threatened.
Gabel stopped the clock on the relay at 3:17.81, trimming .06 from a ten-year-old record held by Alamosa. And so it was that Vista Ridge put the exclamation point on their first-ever state title.
The Wolves got key contributions from multiple sources. With a final margin of victory of only 12 points, there weren't many contributions that fell short of key contributions. In addition to the 4x400 relay title, VR got a 23-10 from Noah Gabel to win the long jump, a second in the 4x200, and thirds from the 4x100 relay and DJ Green in the high jump.
Outside of Cody Bratten's third in the discus, Valor's points came exclusively from the sprints and sprint relays. And, while those 68 points were enough to turn aside Coronado, Cheyenne Mountain, and the rest of the 4A field, they were not enough to derail the Vista Ridge express.
Colt Sessions of Cheyenne Mountain added a 4A state meet record on Friday with a high jump clearance of 6-11.
4A State Meet Results