Wray's hopes of stopping the Paonia run of state titles were slender to begin with. Those hopes went to zero early in the meet when an ill-mannered hurdle took out Alyssa Valko in the prelims of the 100 meter hurdles on Thursday.
From that point forward, Paonia was on cruise control to their fourth consecutive state title. The balance of the Paonia girls track team is the stuff of legend, but sometimes you don't see the balance for the accumulation of raw talent in a smaller handful of events.
After watching Ashley and Briana Van Vleet go 3-4 in the 400 meter dash, for example, you might be forgiven for not realizing how balanced this team is. After watching Paonia win four of five relays, you might momentarily forget how good they were in all the other events, too. Or, you could hardly be expected to list all of Paonia's state placers moments after witnessing the dizzying display of Ashley Van Vleet winning the high jump, Brianna Van Vleet and Emily Pieper going 1-3 in the long jump, or McKenna Palmer, Sophia Anderson, and McKenna Hartigan going 3-4-9 in the triple jump.
But, when you sit back and ponder it all, you realize you witnessed something special. Paonia comes at you from every direction. Whether it's Taylor Carsten and Emily Clawson in the throws, Marisa Edmondson in the sprints, Brooke Hillman at middle distance, Chelsea Meilner in the longer events, any of the several mentioned in the preceding paragraph, or simply someone in red and black you've never heard of before, there aren't enough directions to duck to miss getting hit by Paonia.
When the dust had settled, Paonia had posted 139 team points and one state meet record, that owing to Brianna Van Vleet's 18-9.5 long jump.
If there's a silver lining to this red-and-black cloud, it's that Carsten, Clawson, Ashley Van Vleet, Meilner, and Edmondson are seniors. Mind you, that still leaves a lot of talent in place, but it does thin the ranks just a little.
Wray still managed a very respectable second-place team finish with 76 points. Alyssa Valko found her redemption by nipping Ashley Van Vleet at the finish line of the 300 hurdles for a state title in the last individual event of a very impressive high school career. Megan Godsey (photo, right) won the triple jump at a little over 36 feet. The past and future of Wray throws momentarily joined forces for a 3-5 finish in the discus, with veteran Hannah Lenz taking third at 119-11 and freshman Morgan Smith taking fifth at 114-10. The Wray relays held their own against everyone but Paonia, leaving Jeffco Stadium with an impressive total of 28 points.
Nobody argues that this was not an exceptional team that Wray brought to state this year. But, this was a year that something more than exceptional was required.
Cedaredge has long done battle with Paonia. Cedaredge, in fact, sees Paonia pretty much every week. They know every secret Paonia has except how to stop Paonia. Cedaredge picked their spots and came away with some nice finishes--a first-place in the shot put for Katie Hyke (photo, left), a first place and a new state meet record in the 4x100 (the lone relay that Paonia did not win), and a trio of hard-earned second places for Kenzie Henderson in the jumping events.
Adding to the Delta County feel of domination at this meet, Katy Parsons of Hotchkiss won the 800 meters with a time of 2:18.91. Hotchkiss has won a few 800s in recent years.
All told, the three Delta County schools claimed eight of 19 event titles and posted a cumulative total of 235 team points. All that without ever tapping into the pole vault.
Other event winners included Taylor Alexander closing out her high school pole vault career with a 2A meet record of 11-9. Burlington junior Ellie Berry won the discus at 131-5. Telluride sophomore Soleil Gaylord may have signaled the beginning of a new era in 2A distance with dominating wins in the 1600 and 3200. Caliche senior Jaedyn Lambrecht won a battle of attrition in the 100 hurdles. And, a junior trio of Kayla Zink, Isabelle Himmel, and Melanie Deering went home with the sprint titles.