Marybeth Sant edged Ana Holland in the finals of the Liberty Bell 100, 11.49 to 11.51. Photo by Kelli Noto.
The bell rang loud and clear at this year's edition of the Liberty Bell Invitational. Colorado's thinclads, full of pent up energy due to a spring (or should I say winter?) full of weather delays and cancellations, took out their frustrations on the oval, runways, and throwing rings at Littleton Public Schools Stadium.
The calm and warm conditions over the two day meet yielded a plethora of meet records, as well as several nationally ranked marks - particularly on the girls side. None more so than Regis' star sprinter, Ana Holland, who stole the show - setting two state records in the process. Colorado, which has always been well represented nationally in girls track and field, seems to be approaching the likes of Texas? California? Florida? Per capita, the XY gender in our beautiful state is holding its own.
Friday afternoon/evening began with an exceptional 3200 race. Nationally ranked Erin Hooker of Fort Collins took over early. Newcomer Greta VanCalcar of Palisade and the emerging Darby Gilfillan of George Washington gave chase. Hooker tried to get away, to no avail. Gilfillan sprinted strong the final 450 and dipped under the magical 11:00 minute barrier with a huge PR of 10:58. VanCalcar finished well in 11:01 and Hooker in 11:05.
The girls 400 meter prelims produced audible "oohs" and "ahs" from those in attendance. Ana Holland, on short rest from the 100 prelims, sent shockwaves through the stadium crossing the line in 53.58 seconds, eclipsing the state record of 53.71 held by Denver South's Cynthia Newsome since 1993. A record that has stood for nearly 20 years was almost broken again two minutes later when Pine Creek's Alleandra Watt gracefully ran a 53.78 in the very next heat. After all heats were completed, girls who ran slower than 57.72 unbelievably did not make the final! The times posted by Holland and Watt appear to rank 2nd and 5th nationally, and left the crowd salivating for what was to come in Saturday's final. However, that showdown will have to wait for mid-May, presumably, as both withdrew from the final which was narrowly won in an excellent time of 55.59 by Arapahoe's Taryn Phipps over Golden's Payton Miller.
The fast times didn't stop there, as Eaglecrest's started off things with Saturday with another national mark in the 800 medley holding off Cherry Creek. The Raptors' winning time of 1:46.10 is faster than Loveland's winning time in the 5A state meet last spring. The 3200 meter relay was won by Arapahoe in 9:30.50. Impressive, considering they didn't utilize Devan Foster, the defending state champ at 800 meters. The Warriors were victorious in the 1600 meter relay as well.
Next up were the straightaway races.
The 100 meter hurdles was won by Cherry Creek's Ashley Miller in 14.15 (+0.0) over Mullen's Taylor Klein.
Following was the pre-meet marquee event of the Invitational, the girls 100 meter dash. Chock full of nationally ranked sprinters, these girls didn't disappoint. Smoky Hill's fast-starting Zainab Sanni got away well, but ultimately was gobbled up around the 60 meter mark by the superior top-end speed of Valor's MaryBeth Sant, then Ana Holland, and just before the finish line, by Alleandra Watt. In possibly the fastest 100 meter final in Colorado history for places 1-4, we saw wind-legal times of 11.49 for Sant, 11.51 for Holland, 11.73 for Watt and 11.78 for Sanni - PR's for each and all four of them faster than the meet record! Sant's and Holland's times rank 2nd and 3rd on the national list while Watt and Sanni rank in the top 25 considering ties.
The 1600 meter run, another highly anticipated race, was absolutely loaded. Cherry Creek's national class Jordyn Colter pushed from the gun in setting a new PR of 4:56.20 outkicking Air Academy's super-frosh Katie Rainsberger. Rainsberger's 5:00.20 just missed the 5 minute barrier in Colorado, a feat she accomplished at the Kansas Relays a few weeks ago. Smoky Hill's fast closing Rachael Chacko ran 5:02 to hold off Centennial League rival Erin Norton's 5:03 and West Grand's Tabor Scholl in 5:04. Overall nine girls ran faster than 5:13.
The 300 meter hurdles saw freshman Ashley Miller win her second race of the day - a top 20 national time, and meet record - in 43.07. Jordyn Colter, doubled back in the 800 meters and nabbed her second victory of the day in meet record fashion. Colter's 2:10.18 vanquished repeated attempts by Devan Foster to pass her.
Alleandra Watt led Pine Creek to a meet record in the 800 meter relay in a blistering 1:40.31 and chipped in on their second place 400 meter relay which was won by Cherry Creek in a nice 48.26. Cherry Creek, overall team victors, also received a meet record pole-vault from Megan McCabe at 12-1.
In other field event action, Regis' Kelsey Cunnigham is quickly ascending the national rankings in the triple jump. Her leap of 39-2.25 in the finals was not wind-legal, however her preliminary mark was tying the meet record. Grandview's defending state champ in the shot put, Ada Obinnah, is quickly recovering from a knee injury she suffered at the end of the basketball season. Once thought to be lost for the track season, she won with a throw of 41-5.50. Poudre's Rachel Pott had an off day. Possibly another mega-discus star in the making, Valor Christian's Haley Showalter, just a sophomore, broke Valerie Allman's meet record with a toss of 145-4.
Perhaps the most shocking performance of all occurred near the conclusion of the meet in the 200 meter dash. Withdrawals by Sant, Sanni, and Eaglecrest's Tashay Brown reduced the overall competitiveness. Nonetheless, Holland demonstrated why she is possibly the best all-around sprinter in the country as she notched her second state record of the day - a fabulous 23.29! The crowd wondered whether it would be wind-legal as a strong cross-wind gusted across the track during the final 20-30 meters of her race. Heritage coach and meet director Kevin Young raced down to the wind gauge operator for a reading. He was noticeably excited when it was announced at +1.6 - thus breaking Aspen Burkett's long-standing record. Holland's mark now ranks 1st in country.