State Junior Olympics off to Roaring Start

Different colors, same result: Christian Lyon dominated the 17-18 100 meter dash prelims. Photos by Ben Hershelman.

Once summer hits, many of the track athletes that darken the lanes of the tracks on the Front Range retreat to other sports. Many high school athletes will begin the process of preparing themselves for their fall sport campaigns.

For those who consider track their primary sport, there are two circuits to choose from to hone their skills and technique during the summer. For athletes who are looking for a slightly less competitive scene, there are CARA meets up and down I-25 just about every weekend. For athletes who are looking for something a little more serious, the USATF Junior Olympics offers exactly that.

For those that are not in the know, there are several levels to the USATF JO series. If your eventual goal is to make it to the national meet, you first must register at your state level meet. That meet for Colorado-based athletes began today and concludes tomorrow. The top four finishers in each event at the state level meet advance to the USATF Region 10 Championships later this summer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Top event finishes from the regional meet advance to the national meet held at Sacramento State University at the end of July. Athletes qualify in two year age brackets starting at 8 and under and working all the way up to 17-18.

With six age divisions, we will focus primarily on high school age athletes for the purpose of this article, but there are photos of all age divisions in most events contested today over in the gallery.

An interesting quirk of a USATF meet is it offers distance athletes the opportunity to run different distances than they would on the high school. Instead of the 1600 and 3200, they contest the 1500 and 3000. Mason Brown, normally of Eaglecrest, ran unattached in the 3000 to win in a very decent 9:27. Chase Dornbusch, representing Valor Track Academy (but competes during the CHSAA season for Lakewood), was second at 9:36.10. Bryce Medaris from Angel Flight (Mullen HS) was third at 9:53.21. All three will have the option to head to Albuquerque to compete.

In non-distance events, if there were not enough athletes to fill a heat, the competition immediately became a final instead of a preliminary as the calendar originally planned. This happens frequently in hurdle events.

Jaiden Paris from Cherokee Trail/Angel Flight got just that lucky, although anyone in the 15-16 age division running a 14.88 is pretty likely to advance, regardless.

Sarah Yocum of Faith Christian, running unattached, takes the top seed in to Sunday's final with her 14.95. Semaye Johnson from Angel Flight (Pomona HS) ran a PR 15.09 to keep things close.

Jequan Hogan from Fountain-Fort Carson ran unattached to the top seed in the 15-16, and Marcus Howard from Angel Flight (DSST: Green Valley Ranch) grabbed the top seed to Albuquerque with his 15.04 PR.

There were a few jaw-dropping moments in the 400m prelims as well. Kyairra Reigh from Denver Lightning is going to contribute very quickly to whatever high school team she ends up on. She dominated the 13-14 girl's prelims with a 57.14. Reigh did the same thing later in the day running the fastest 100m seed of the day at 12.58.

Simone Watkins running for FK Elite (Denver East HS) similarly dominated the 15-16 girls with a 58.81. Tyrese Vanhorne, running unattached, PR'd his way to finals with a 50.80. Heide Baron (Pine Creek) had the fastest girls time of the day with her 56.58. Duane McClurkin (formerly Fountain-Fort Carson, but now at the University of Colorado) was the fastest overall boy at 48.94.

Out in the shot put rings, Charles Broomfield from LIFT (Coronado) booked his ticket to Albuquerque with a 43-02.50 toss. Elena Opp (Highlands Ranch) did the same in the 15-16 division going 31-08.5. 

Leading the female vaulters was Erika Willis from the Classical Academy who had the best vault of the day at 11-11.75.

It would not be a track meet in Denver without an Arria Minor appearance. Minor, the freshman phenom from Denver East running with Denver Lightning for the summer ran an 11.87 100m to dominate prelims.

Taylor Watson and Dawnielle Lewis (Rangeview) ran both ran under 13 seconds to take second and third in the 15-16 age bracket. London Evans, most recently of Ralston Valley ran a 12.28 to take her age division. Luc Andrada from Pueblo East held on to his seeding to beat Tyrese Vanhorne in round one of their 100m bout. There was also a Christian Lyon appearance. Lyon laid waste to the field en route to the top seed for finals on Sunday.

Come back tomorrow for complete results and complete coverage of all remaining events.