Top Stories of 2018 #9: Mooney's Magical Mile

It's been one insanely busy and exciting year in the world of Colorado Cross Country and Track and Field.

It was a year stacked with a handful of jaw-dropping performances, and it only seems fitting cap the final days of the year by highlighting the Top 9 Stories Of 2018

There was no shortage of highlights to pick from. But at the end of the day I had to settle on nine, and believe me when I say the nine stories you'll read over the next few days, as well as a handful of others not mentioned, were almost too close to call. 

And speaking of highlights, or races, too close to call...

We'll kick off this stacked series by putting a spotlight on the 2018 5A state 1,600 championships, which was perhaps one of the most exciting races at the state meet, if not the year.

It was a race that had all the joy and woe of competition, which explains why it made its way onto this list.

On the starting line that Saturday, May 19, were two of the fastest milers in the state. There was the breakout distance star of the season, Broomfield's Michael Mooney, and the one constant variable in every insanely tight mile race of the year, Mountain Vista's Carter Dillon.

The two seniors battled over the 1,600 distance three weeks earlier at Stutler in a race that went down to the line. That night it was Dillon who took the victory in 4:14.20 to Mooney's 4:14.44.

If anything it was a prelude to what spectators would see at JeffCo Stadium for the 2018 State Championships.

Adding to how hotly contested of a battle this was brewing up to be was the fact that Mooney entered the state meet with a 4:11.99 personal best, which he ran a week earlier in a dive-at-the-line-win to beat Cruz Culpepper's 4:12.01 at St. Vrain.

It was just ahead of Dillon's 4:12.91 PR from another blood-pumping race: The Mullen Mile, where he was a runner-up to Cole Sprout.

Looking backwards in time this race was already seasoned and ready to serve onto one hot plate of an epic finale.

"Michael Mooney pushed the middle laps of the race, though Dillon was flying far and away in the final 300. After creating a sizeable gap, Mooney turned on the jets and kicked Carter down in the final strides. It appeared that Dillon thought he had the race won, but Mooney's final lean proved to be the difference.

After the two crashed at the finish line, the next few moments hung in the air as a winner was decided. And it was Mooney in 4:16.15 to Dillon's 4:16.17."

It was the second time in just over a week Mooney nabbed a victory at the line for a win worth fractions of a second. You can't really see two-hundredths of a second in any photo, but that's what the difference was. 

It was a race that was simultaneously exciting as well as heart-breaking. 

On one end, there was a thrilling come-from-behind victory of Mooney, who added the 1,600 title to his 3,200 from two days earlier. And on the other end, you couldn't help but hurt for Dillon, who came agonizingly close to his first individual state title in the final race of his high school career.

While Mooney won the race, some credit must be given to Dillon for making it. His surge with 300 to go prompted a Mooney kick. And a Mooney kick prompted a Dillon dive. And a Dillon dive prompted a Mooney lean. 

Collaboration makes for the best Art.

In the end, it was the epitome of competition: The Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of Defeat.

The photo above, as well as below, pretty much sums up the race in a nutshell: it was one wild kick to the finish, and a last-second lean that sealed the victory for Mooney, who capped his breakout season with two state titles.

The faces of Michael Mooney's sister, Madison Mooney, and Carter Dillon's Mountain Vista teammates say it all: The Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of Defeat.

The win ended what would be a stellar season for Mooney, which was one he started with a modest personal best of 4:21 in the 1,600, and no PR in the 3,200, which he hadn't raced until the 2018 season. 

While his two state titles in May were the exclamation point on his season, the soccer-star-turned distance-stud's breakout came a few months earlier at Arcadia where he dropped his 3,200 PR 30 seconds to 8:50.96 in a runner-up finish.

Just two weeks before his Arcadia finish he went from 9:50 to 9:20 in Colorado in his second 3,200 ever. Mooney's 8:50.96 at Arcadia was the No. 1 3,200 in the country when he ran it, and by the time the sun had set on the 2018 track season, his 8:50.96 remained No. 3 in the country.

While his 3,200 feat alone is worthy of being included as a "Top Story of 2018," it's his thrilling victory in the 1,600 at State last May that gave him those additional two-hundredths of a second to lean his way onto this list.

More on Michael Mooney: 

One More Time At The Line For The Mooney Twins

An Insane Year For The 1600

Great At State: The 5A Recap

Records Fall At St. Vrain As State Looms Days Away

A Big Night At The Stutler Twilight

Mooney Goes 8:50.96 For US No. 1 At Arcadia