The End of Invitationals (But What a Way to Go Out)

Josh Mielke, one of the state's top hurdlers, is headed to the St. Vrain Invitational this Friday. Photo by Alan Versaw.


It's the last weekend of invitationals, and it's safe to say that the invitational season isn't limping its way home. As a matter of fact, two of the state's biggest and most competitive invitationals take place this weekend.

Those two meets would be the St. Vrain Invitational at Longmont High School and the Grand Junction Tiger Invitational at Stocker Stadium. Colorado Track XC will have on-site coverage at both events. 

The folks at the St. Vrain Invitational are pulling out all of the stops.


The 9th edition of the Longmont Ford St. Vrain Invitational is one of the few meets in the state that features competition across all five track classifications.  1A schools Otis and Shining Mountain will go head-to-head with 5A powers such as Loveland and George Washington.  Schools in every classification in between will be represented.  
This meet has long been at the forefront of innovation, pushing the boundaries of what a high school track meet can be. When Mark Roberts, Tim McIntire, and Ken Howell are heading up the organization and timing of a meet, it is guaranteed to be first class.  Exciting additions to this years meet include: 
1. 10ft x 16ft color display board with immediate results
2. Dual pole vault runways on the infield
3. Apple Ipad raffle
4. There are a few technical matters still being worked on, but the plan is for live video streaming of the meet on Colorado Track XC. More details on this will be posted later in the week if we're able to resolve the technical issues.
The elite competitors are back with more events than ever before. The meet will have an elite men's 100, 200, 400, mile, and pole vault.  For the women, we'll see an elite pole vault and mile.
The elite men's 100 will include former Colorado high school athletes Jeremy Dodson and Joe Morris.
The elite men's 200 contains many of the same competitors, but Jeremy Dodson is the overwhelming favorite in this one.  Dodson was third at US Championships in 2011, running 20.07.  He just won the elite 200 at Mt. SAC relays in 20.39 which is the 8th fastest time in the world this year!  The Colorado Soil record of 20.22 is under threat.
The elite men's 400 is a rematch of last year's top two, Drew Morano and James Davis.  Both are coaches as well as athletes: Morano is the sprint coach at CU, Davis is the sprint coach at Boulder HS.  They were separated by only .1 second last year with Morano running Davis down on the homestretch in a thrilling finish, 46.07 to 46.17.  Morano is the favorite on paper, having run 46.09 at Mt. SAC relays this year.
The elite men's mile features several local athletes and a coaches duel.  The favorite would have to be Kenyon Neuman who ran 3:49 in the 1500m in Boulder while competing for CU in 2008.  He's coming off a 13:40 PR in the 5k at Stanford last weekend.  He is the defending champion in the now defunct Eliminator and has run 3:45 in the 1500m at sea level.  He definitely has the best form currently. Other competitors include: Jeremy Freed (2011 Bolder Boulder citizens race champ), Ofer Barniv (4:00.15 mile, 3:44 1500m while at Kent State), Trent Briney (4th place in 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon), Edwin Sang (1:47 800m, 3:45 1500m, US Army/American Distance Project).  Coaches in the race include Kelly Christiansen (D2 steeple champ at Western State, 4:09 mile, coach at Thompson Valley), Peter Cunningham and Collier Kempton of Valor Christian, Matt Norton of Thompson Valley (maybe), and Greg Weich of Broomfield (an even bigger maybe, we're still working on him).  There is also a rumor that there might be a fast 8th grader in the mix as well.
The elite men's pole vault features the most accomplished athlete in the meet, Nick Hysong.  Nick won the Olympic Gold Medal in the pole vault in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  His winning vault was 5.90m (or 19-4.25)!  Joining him in the 40+ category will be Pat Manson, who holds the Colorado Soil Record at 19-0.75. The young challenger to the throne should be Rory Quiller, sporting a PR of 18-6.5.
The elite women's mile features Sara Slattery (NCAA champion, Bolder Boulder champion, 4:19 1500m), Kara Lubieniecki (4-times D2 All-American @ Chico State, 4:27 1500m, Bear Creek HS), and Rachel Gioscia (8-time CO HS state champ, still holds 3A state meet 1600 record at 4:57, Buena Vista HS).
The elite women's pole vault features 3 women who have cleared 14-3.5: April Kubishta, Vera Neuenswander, and Jenny Soceka. 
The high school portion of the meet will feature some amazing athletes in their own right.  At the top of the list are Dior Hall of George Washington who currently has the #2 time in the US in the 100 hurdles (after removing wind aided times) and Valarie Allman of Silver Creek who currently has the #6 discus mark in the US at 157-11.  Also in the mix will be Kaylee Packham and the Loveland girls relays.  Packham holds the #17 mark in the 300 hurdles nationally at 42.70.  The Loveland girls swept all five relays at St. Vrain last year and might be able to do the same thing this year.  Their SMR8 has the #9 time in the nation currently.  They should face a tough challenge from George Washington in the 4x100 and from Thompson Valley, Niwot, and Monarch in the 4x8.  The girls 1600 is shaping up to be a very tightly-contest event as well. Several girls enter the meet poised to break 5 minutes. Karina Ernst of Thompson Valley is a slight favorite based on her victory at Mullen. St. Vrain looks to be a rematch, of sorts, of the stirring Mullen race. The girls 100 could see a matchup of Chyna Ries and MaryBeth Sant.
The boys top competitor looks to be Kirk Webb.  Webb is on a roll lately having run 1:53 and 1:52 800s in successive weeks. He'll look to lead a strong Monarch boys 4x8 team and improve upon his 4:16 1600 time.  
Spectators will have to watch out for UFOs when the boys hit the shot and discus rings. There are potentially eight throwers entered who have marks over 155 feet this year.  The shot put is no less impressive, with potentially eight boys entered over 50 feet.  The boys 4x200 features three of the top ten teams in the state.  Broomfield and Lyons have chased each other to school records at Longmont Invite and Boulder County.  Add Cherokee Trail into the mix and you have three teams who could push to break 1:28.  Thompson Valley's Josh Mielke puts his hurdle reputation on the line against guys like Sam Little, Braden Hitchcock, and Hunter Leachman. Last but not least, the boys pole vault is a display of the best Colorado has to offer. Five of the top seven vaulters in the state will be in attendance and the adrenaline will be running high in front of the main grandstand.  Look for several boys to catapult over 15 feet.
I don't know what, if any, special events the Grand Junction Tiger Invitational has scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Grand Junction, but we do know this: there is no bigger meet, nor any meet more hotly contested on the western slope every spring than the Tiger Invitational. The Friday evening 3200 always seems to be a special attraction of this meet. The opportunity to run against solid competition, at low altitude (by Colorado standards), and in the cool of a spring evening in Grand Junction is simply too much for many to pass up. Pomona, Dakota Ridge, Moffat County, Durango, Fruita Monument, and Telluride are on the list of teams coming. From that, you can pretty well figure many of the names to expect to see in the 3200 on Friday.
You would think that two meets of this level would wipe out the competitive expectations of meets all across the state, but it isn't quite so. It's the last weekend of competition before league meets and almost every meet being held this weekend will have at least a couple of events that should turn out to be key contests leading up to the state meet. Many will be full of such contests, and especially those that chisel their niches to cater to the smaller classificiations.
On Friday, your pick of meets includes the Cedaredge Bruin Invitational, the Thomas Jefferson Twilight II, and the renewal of the Canon City Blossom Invite after a one-year hiatus.
On Saturday, action resumes with the Highlands Ranch Memorial, the Cherry Creek/Grandview Invitational, the Battle Mountain Invitational, the Doherty Spartan Invite, the Terry Alley Inviational, the Holy Family Tiger Tornado Invitational, the 1A Statewide Meet in Limon, the Thornton Last Chance, the Lewis-Palmer Invite, and the Don Gatewood (Montbello) Invitational.
The discerning fan of track and field understands that several athletes have seasons on the line this weekend. Due to limited entries at league meets next week, this is the final shot for several competitors to earn a place on the roster at the league meet and, thus, to keep alive their hopes for competing at the state meet on May 17-19. Stakes are high this weekend. Nobody can afford to sit this weekend and hope for a better opportunity.
Be sure to get out and catch a glimpse of the action. And check back at Colorado Track XC all weekend long as results are posted.