Lakewood's Jake Jones eyes the flight of his winning throw in the shot put. Photo by Jeff McCoy.
While Loveland and Fountain-Fort Carson have been solid teams all season long, there were definitely points during the season where neither were looking like favorites to retain their titles.
But, just as they did last year, Loveland and Fountain-Fort Carson had enough of the answers right on the final exam to come out on top.
Loveland's state meet did not, however, start in promising fashion. The distance events, in particular, looked a little ragged on Thursday. Kailie Hartman DNF'd the 3200 and the 4x800 finished with only five points in fifth. And, while the sprint relays held their own in prelims, there were several close calls on advancing to finals in individual events. Those close calls were either an exceptionally good combination of coaching and athlete judgment or an indicator that Loveland wasn't quite firing on all cylinders on Thursday morning.
But, as coaches are fond of reminding runners, it's not how you start the race that counts, it's how you finish. And Loveland finished well.
Two firsts and two seconds in the sprint relays put Loveland on top of the 5A relay world. One of those seconds came to a Littleton team that took three seconds off the Colorado all-classification record for the 4x400, so a second in that event hardly counts against's Loveland's relay credibility. In fact, for their part, the Indians ran 3:50.62. There aren't many years that a 3:50 isn't going to win the 5A girls 4x400.
The exclamation point on it all, however, came when Kaylee Packham ran 42.69 to win the 300 hurdles. Packham also took third in the 100 hurdles earlier in the day. Teammate Maggie Anderson picked up a 6th and an 8th in the hurdle events. Loveland added a few scattered points in other events and, by Saturday afternoon, nobody was in sight of the Blonde Brigade.
Arapahoe finished a distant second to Loveland, 24 points back.
Individually, nobody in the 5A girls competition had a better meet than Regis Jesuit's Ana Holland and Eleanor Fulton of Highlands Ranch. Holland won the 100 in 11.77, missed the 200 title by .01 seconds, and scorched everyone in the 400 with a time of 54.68. Fulton won the distance triple crown, including a 2:09.20 in the 800. Most people were close to conceding the 1600 and 3200 to Fulton, but the win in the 800 came as a small surprise.
Many people felt that the state meet was Arapahoe's to lose on the boys' side. Those who felt that way, however, weren't taking Fountain-Fort Carson seriously enough. And, nobody on the F-FC team earned more credibility this weekend than junior sprinter Markesh Woodson.
Nobody doubted that Woodson is one of the top sprinters in Colorado. But, with having to face the likes of Raymond Bozmans, Gavin McHenry, and Chaz Butler, Woodson could have been easily forgiven had he came home without any event titles. Or at least easily forgiven by others....
Woodson, apparently, wasn't in a forgiving mood where his own performances were concerned. Wind legal marks of 10.45 and 21.19 don't require forgiveness, personal or otherwise. Woodson was on fire Saturday, and that fire consumed to 5A competition.
Woodson also contributed to the Trojans' relay party. Fountain-Fort Carson won the 4x100 and 4x200 in blistering times of 41.71 and 1:27.13. On both relays, Woodson closed the door on the fastest anchor legs in the state of Colorado.
But, it's difficult to win a state title on just the 100, 200, 4x100, and 4x200. Fortunately for the Trojans, they didn't need to. Other points were contributed via Kordale Taylor, Josiah Lee, and Trey Talley in the triple jump, Kordale Taylor in the long jump, and--perhaps most importantly--Dakota Leazer in the 300 hurdles. Leazer's time of 38.59 moved him from fourth in prelims to first in finals.
As much as Fountain-Fort Carson dominated the team standings, Connor Winter dominated the distance events. For the second year in succession, Winter pulled off the distance triple, winning the 800 in 1:53.23, the 1600 in 4:19.74, and the 3200 in 9:15.51. All three races were won in typical Winter fashion, holding back in third or fourth almost until it appears he has nothing in the tank. But, each time, the inner alarm goes off at just the right time and Winter surges ahead for the win. He may want to recalibrate that timer for purposes of the 800, however. Winter's margin of error in the 800 was just a hair on the slim side.
Arapahoe finished a relatively distant second in the team scoring with 54 points to F-FC's 68.
Palmer's Reggie Allison was a bit of a surprise winner in the long jump at 23-0.5. Allison also finished second in the triple jump, just missing doubling up on indvidual titles. Jake Jones of Lakewood was a big surprise winner of the shot put at 54-6.25.