James Thomas didn't quite manage to hold off Highlands Ranch, but he did all that was necessary, plus a little, to secure yet another state title for Fountain-Fort Carson in the 4x400.
It really did all come down to the last event. When the 5A Boys 4x400 took the track, Monarch held a 101-98 edge over Fountain-Fort Carson. Nobody else was even remotely close.
Both teams had an entry in the 4x400, and they would square off against each other directly in the second of two heats against time. A condensed state meet meant that all qualified 4x400s would be running in finals against time. Monarch needed only the score within three points of the Fountain-Fort Carson to clinch at least a share of the 2017 5A Boys state title for track and field. And, Monarch had the advantage of being able to run in the same heat as Fountain-Fort Carson to try to make sure they stayed close enough.
Fountain-Fort Carson got to this point through all the usual Trojan means. Via guys like Jequan Hogan, Jalen Lyon, Jason Farrell, Donovan Williams, and Iosua Maika, Fountain-Fort Carson had amassed their usual bundle of points. And, they did it in all the usual featured events for the Trojans: jumps, sprints, hurdles, and relays--plus a few points in the throws that don't always fall FFC's way.
98 points will win you most state track meets around here, and especially so at the 5A level.
But, this was not most state track meets.
Monarch came to the meet loaded for Trojan. Monarch brought a much shorter list of events to the state meet than FFC, but the presence they wielded in the events they did show up for more than made up for any shortfall in sheer number of events.
Monarch had piled up most of their 101 points in the distance events. The Coyotes had been unstoppable there all meet long. In the 3200, they went 1-2-3 for 25 points. The cast of characters will get familiar here before we're done, but in this case it was Isaac Green, Charlie Perry, and Zach Litoff. Later the same afternoon, the 4x800 of Green, Litoff, William Dixon, and Sean Gazarik added a first for another 10 points.
The next morning saw Monarch collect another 15 points in the 800, with Green taking a first and Litoff a fifth. The 1600, run shortly before the 4x400 saw the largest Coyote accumulation of points from the entire weekend, a stunning 27 points, courtesy of Green, Perry, Litoff, and Cayce Reese.
Tacked onto that were some field event points. Six points from Nico Heineke in the discus and a staggering 18 points from the pole vault with a 1-2 by Cole Rowan and Max Manson--also delivered shortly before the 4x400.
In just six events, Monarch had put 101 points on the board. If it takes you a while to wrap your mind around that, count it as a good sign. It means the improbability of it all has registered with you.
But, there was one disturbing secret about the Monarch 4x400. The foursome that qualified for State wasn't quite exactly the same foursome that lined up at State. Something about a four-event limit...
Monarch had the assignment before them. They knew fully what they had to do. They ran bravely. They ran with a purpose. And they ran out of gas.
As one leg passed the baton to the next, Fountain-Fort Carson stayed with the lead group, sometimes even owning the lead. Meanwhile, Monarch fell farther and farther back. By the third leg, the gap became, for all practical purposes, insurmountable.
Monarch's magical run came up short. Monarch finished 8th in the heat and 11th overall--out of the points. Fountain-Fort Carson, meanwhile, watched first place slip out of their hands, but nothing else got away. Second place and eight points was more than enough to push the Trojans over the top.
Monarch's bid to overtake the near-perennial champions of 5A Boys track and field came up agonizingly short.