Smoky Hill's Dom Carrasco took his first Colorado hurdles meet title at Liberty Bell, winning the 300s in a very quick 38.39. Colorado Track XC file photo by Alan Versaw.
On Friday, the 2015 edition of the Liberty Bell Invitational began under ominous gray skies after a 40-minute lightning delay in which all athletes, coaches, and spectators were instructed to exit the stadium and seek shelter inside Littleton High School or in their vehicles. This left coaches and athletes wondering if the expected ending time of 9:00 pm would extend to well beyond that.
To the credit of Meet Director Brian Runyon, the rest of the Heritage staff, and the meet officials, once the meet began things were electric on the track, not just in the sky above.
Friday's track events are devoted primarily to preliminary rounds of the sprints and hurdles. Some nice performances there set up even better performances on Saturday. Friday's action concluded with fast sections of the 3200. And fast it was!
Prior to the 3200, word began to circulate in Littleton Public Schools Stadium of some spectacular performances at the Cherry Creek Twilight Meet roughly ten miles to the east. On the infield, coaches and athletes alike were heard uttering the questions, “Did you hear what Jordyn Colter ran?" And, “Did you hear what Paul Roberts ran?"
Not to be outdone, Lauren Gregory of Fort Collins hammered from the gun in cool, ideal distance running conditions to a stupendous meet record, and 3rd fastest ever in Colorado time of 10:25.72. Also running fast in the low 11:00 range were Kayla Young, Emma Gee, and Lexi Reed.
Following that was the boys 3200 in which Ben Butler of SkyView Academy pushed from the gun to a runaway victory in 9:23.19, missing the meet record by a scant tenth of a second.
These fantastic performances at LPS and Stutler Bowl likely left coaches at both venues wondering, “Where's Alan Versaw when you need him?" “Wonder what the barometric pressure is?"
Editor's Note: The truth of the matter is that barometric pressure was not that great on Friday evening, but the temperatures were cool enough that oxygen density was pretty decent even so (The two biggest contributors to conditions of high oxygen density are high barometric pressure and low temperature. Beyond a certain point, low temperatures become inhibitive of great distance performances for other reasons, but that point was far out of view on Friday evening.). Oxygen density should be of almost no consequence to an 800, but will definitely impact a 3200. Still, the margins by which Roberts' and Gregory's times stand out from the rest of the fields they competed against simply underscore the fact that these two fine young athletes simply had exceptional efforts.
Friday's field event action was hampered by the swirling winds and cool, damp conditions. Nevertheless, some nice marks were established.
In a battle of Eagle County, Vail Christian's Taylor Alexander took the pole vault competition over rival Izze Calabrese of Battle Mountain. Alexander's winning height was 11-4.
Super-frosh Maya Evans of Vista Peak won the long jump at 19-0.75, and Fountain Fort-Carson's Gina Coleman won the discus.
The boy's high jump ended in a tie between Dionne Taylor of Pine Creek and Trevor Rex of Highlands Ranch, both eclipsing 6-8 and splitting the 18 team points. Ben Morgan, also of Highlands Ranch, took the long jump, while Arapahoe's Christian Delaney won the shot put with a nice 52-4 heave.
A decision was made to place Saturday's events on a rolling schedule to counteract impending thunderstorms due in the afternoon.
Track action began with the girls 800 meter medley relay, where Fort Collins won the first of three relay titles on the day, and 3200 meter relays. In the 4x800, Smoky Hill's girls outlasted Fairview in a solid time of 9:27.18, followed by Fountain-Fort Carson's boys also in a top time of 7:59.90. F-FC “came to play," as they would win all four boys relays on Saturday!
Next up were the straightaway hurdle events. The Rock Canyon duo of talented freshman Emily Sloan and seasoned veteran Rhyan Pettaway went 1-2 in the 100 hurdles. Sloan's winning time of 14.18 is quite strong. The boy's 110 hurdles was a virtual dead heat between Ryan Younggreen of Holy Family and Josh Wright of Overland. Both clocked 14.33, but Younggreen got the nod on the photo finish.
The girls 100 meter dash saw the return to action of Ally Watt. The Pine Creek super-athlete recently returned from U.S. National Team soccer duty inside and outside the country. Watt hasn't missed a beat, winning the race in 11.70 over Maya Evans at 11.81. Regis' Javan Lanier continued to pile up victories as he took the boys race in 10.73. Lanier was named meet MVP as well.
The 800 meter relays were won by the Fountain-Fort Carson boys in near meet record time of 1:27.99, and the Pine Creek girls.
In 1600 meter action, Air Academy's Katie Rainsberger set out on meet record pace, but ultimately just missed. Nevertheless, her winning time (4:56.45) and margin of victory were impressive. Forrest Barton of Castle View kicked best to overcome F-FC's Dylan Day in the final meters, 4:23.49 to 4:23.67.
Following the 1600s came the 400 meter relays, and the event that “woke-up" the stadium. As the girls were competing in the fast heat, a micro-burst swept across the infield and blew the check-in tent towards the girls in the first exchange. The tent engulfed an Overland athlete and carried her off the track (see Denver Post photo). Coaches, athletes, and spectators rushed to her aid. In what at first appeared to be a serious situation turned out well, as the girl was startled but thankfully uninjured. After a 20 minute delay, competition resumed and Fountain-Fort Carson's outstanding relay day continued with a meet record, and seriously legit time of 41.64. A re-run of the girls 4x100 took place after the boys race, and bravely Overland toed the line for that. However, the race was won by Fort Collins.
As things began to calm down, literally and figuratively, the 400 meter races were claimed by Julia Hall of Arapahoe in 55.35 and Mike Ware of Gateway in 48.25. Both of these athletes, who were not very much on the radar last year, have quickly established themselves as serious contenders in the quarter this season.
In the 300 hurdles, a new name burst onto the scene, or at least the Colorado scene. Smoky Hill's Dom Carrasco, racing the 300 hurdles for the first time this year, won with the second best 5A time in the state, 38.39. Carrasco, an all-state hurdler in Kansas as a sophomore, tore his hamstring early in the season last spring and never returned to form for Smoky in 2014. Sarah Yocum of Faith Christian dominated the girl's race, posting an excellent time of 44.36.
Becca Schulte of Fort Collins overtook Ginger Hutton late to win the girls 800 in 2:14.80. In the process, she pulled seven girls under 2:20. Not to be outdone by his good friend and teammate Carrasco, Smoky Hill's Blake Yount set forth on a stay-with-me-if-you-can opening quarter of 52 flat. Looking to break his own state record, Yount was on pace to do so until the final meters when he tied up and ran "only" 1:52.61. Still, it established a new meet record and left observers yearning for a Blake Yount (5A) vs. William Mayhew (4A Cheyenne Mountain) matchup that unfortunately likely will not materialize.
Only four girls showed up for the final of the 200 meter dash. It was won by eventual meet MVP Julia Hall in 24.69 just edging Heide Baron of Pine Creek for the second time on the day. As with Hall, Mike Ware secured a 400/200 double victory as well. Ware sped 21.24 to Tevin Donnell's 21.33.
For the most part, the field events experienced much better weather conditions on Saturday.
The girl's high jump was the scene of a crowd-pleasing competition between Castle View's Mackenzie Pettit and Sofia Calabrese of Battle Mountain. Both girls tied the existing meet record, before Pettit set a new record at 5-7.
In the triple jump, Pine Creek's Amelia Harvey claimed a narrow victory over Sarah Smith of D'Evelyn, 37-4.25 to 37-.75. De'Jour Plunkett-Elliot of Thomas Jefferson bounded to victory on the boys ledger with a nice leap of 47-6.
Wheat Ridge's Nina Thomas "popped one" at the shot put ring with a 40-1 toss.
The boys pole vault had Christian Mueller winning at 14-4, while pre-meet favorite Zach Ray no-heighted amongst swirling winds.
David Casas of Battle Mountain notched victory in the discus, spinning the platter 152-06.
Eventual team champions Fort Collins (girls) and Fountain-Fort Carson (boys) raced to wins in the 1600 meter relays. Fort Collins won in 3:56.00 over the 4:01.29 of Arapahoe. F-FC, without the services of ace Duane McClurkin for the meet, won in a pedestrian (for them) time of 3:26.17.
Blake Yount 800 and interview videos (coming soon)