Phil Wertman Avoids Bad Weather, Brings Big Performances

Ginny Bergstrom runs away with the victory in the 300 hurdles.

After a rare week where there was no meet at Stocker Stadium, Western Slope tracksters returned to the oval Friday night for the Phil Wertman Invitational. Winter conditions swirled throughout the state, but other than some early wind and light rain during the 3,200 and 4x400s, the evening escaped poor conditions.

On paper the boys 3,200 pointed to one of the meet's marquee showdowns between Glenwood Springs' Benny Smith and Gunnison's Colton Stice. As rain fell, Smith took the lead after the 800 and he maintained it through the 3,000. Stice was unable to stay in the front pack and on the last curve it turned into a race with Montrose's Evan Graff and Glenwood's Henry Barth making up ground on Smith. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, realistically it was from about 50 meters back, Grand Junction Central's David Cardenas blew past everybody in a full sprint down the homestretch to steal the win. Cardenas finished in 9:45.38 followed by Smith in 9:46.17, Graff in 9:47.83 and Barth in 9:48.08.

While Gunnison's Stice had an off night in the 3,200, the Gunnison ladies had a strong showing in several distance races. Freshman Aulea Rollins had a six second improvement from her previous best in the 3,200 while running the race virtually on her own. Her 12:06.45 moved her into the top eight times in Class 3A. Teammate Shannon Murphy improved by three seconds to win the 800 in 2:30.11.

Another exciting distance competition kicked off the meet. The boys 4x800 saw the Grand Junction and Montrose harriers battle back and forth for the lead. On the last lap the anchors of both teams pushed each other down the homestretch with Grand Junction's Aaron King stretching past the finish line for the win. GJ's 8:23.12 has the Tigers right on the edge of the top 18 in Class 5A and the Indian's 8:24.08 in the top 12 in 4A. Of course anyone who follows Colorado track and field knows, those times are all about to start dropping as the weather warms up along with competition.

The Grand Valley duo of Shaya Chenoweth and Jordyn Pittman don't need warm weather to make things happen. Chenoweth improved on her previous best of 15-11 an unheard of 16 inches in the long jump. Her launch of 17-05 marked her first time in the 17-foot range and moved her into second place in 3A. She also won the 100 (12.96), and was third in the 200 (27.46). Pittman broke 60 seconds for the first time the season and the third time in her career in the 400. Her time of 59.36 moved her into the elite company of four other girls in 3A who are sub-60. She also finished second in the 100 (13.12) and fifth in the 200, (27.59). The two teamed up with Maya Mercado and Alex Mendoza to win the 800 sprint medley with a 3A Top-5 time of 1:54.13.

Pittman was not the only competitor to break a barrier in the 400. Montrose's Caleb Egbert and Glenwood Springs' Gavin Olson pushed down the homestretch to break 50. They both moved into the top five in Class 4A with their times of 49.41 and 49.7, with Egbert getting the win.

In addition to state-finals level efforts on Friday, there were several athletes to take home more than one gold. Glenwood Springs' Ginny Bergstrom continued to show she is one of Class 4A's female hurdlers winning the 100 in 15.75 and the 300 in 47.36. One of the top performances from meet host Fruita Monument was the double win for Cason Gisner in the 100 (11.41) and 200 (23.17). The hosts also had a double win from Caden Olson in the high jump (6-03) and long jump (21-01.75.) Finally, Palisade's Ricardo Valenzuela swept the boys' throws with 136-10 in the discus and 44-07.50 in the shot put.