Ally Watt anchored Pine Creek to two meet relay records. Photo by Ashley Green.
The 2014 edition of the Liberty Bell Invitational began under slightly windy conditions on Friday. The breezes of Friday gave way to stiff winds on Saturday, undoubtedly affecting numerous events. Though there were fewer teams than past years, there did not seem to be an effect on the overall competitiveness of the meet.
Despite the windy conditions, warm temperatures, and low barometric pressure (thanks Alan), the two-day event yielded a plethora of meet records, and several nationally ranked marks - particularly on the girls side. When the likes of national record holder Dior Hall, national leader Chyna Ries, and national class Ally Watt are all in attendance, things are about to get real.
Friday's session began with exceptional 3200 meter races. Freshman phenom and nationally ranked Lauren Gregory of Fort Collins set out on a blistering pace. The prescribed pace of 5:15 for the initial 1600 went out the window with an opening 400 in 72 seconds! George Washington's Darby Gilfillan, who seems to prefer track to cross country, quickly joined the chase on lap two and maintained just enough pressure on Gregory to push the two of them to superb times (and altitude PRs) of 10:50 and 10:56.
Not to be outdone, the boys race featured a stellar cast of all-state runners in Poudre's Paul Miller, Mountain Vista's Connor Weaver and Andrew Walton, Chaparral's Dominic Compoz, and Pine Creek's Zach Alhamra. A strategy of packing up early and pushing each other late allowed for some excellent times. Miller eventually won going away in 9:26, with Weaver and the returning-to-form Alhamra finishing at 9:29 and 9:30. Compoz, Walton, and Boulder's Satchell Caldwell dipped under 9:36 in one of the more competitive 3200s in recent memory.
Over the last few years, the girls 400 meter preliminary rounds at Liberty Bell has become quite the event. Last year, Ally Watt (nearly) and Ana Holland (successfully) broke the existing state record in the prelims. Alas, no state record was set in this year's early rounds. As with last year, however, it took a stellar time of 57.63 just to make Saturday's final. That race on Saturday, as was the case last year, saw the withdrawal of three athletes. Still, Denver East's Damajahnee Birch stamped herself as national caliber with a PR of 54.97. Golden's Payton Miller ran 55.61 for a solid second place.
Friday's field event action provided a 5A vs 4A match-up in the discus between recent 5A record setter Josephine Natrsevschi of Fort Collins and Haley Showalter of Valor Christian, both national-class throwers in their own right. Showalter took the battle, though the winds were certainly adversely affecting the flight of the platter. Showalter would win again on Saturday with a 41-3 inch put in the shot. In the boys triple jump, Connor Turnage of Highlands Ranch won handily - albeit into slight headwind. As did Denver East's Chyna Ries on the adjacent long jump runway. Ries' winning leap of 20-1.5, paled in comparison to her slim scratch of a 21-1. No doubt she has Chelsea Taylor's state record squarely in her sight. Fort Collins' splendid freshman Audra Koopman represented herself well with an 18-11 jump as well. ThunderRidge's Gabrielle Smith continues to impress in the pole vault clearing 11-7.5.
The excellent marks didn't stop there, as Denver East started off things Saturday winning the 800 medley relay. Following that were two outstanding 3200 meter relay races won in a meet record time of 9:14.78 by Fairview (over Fort Collins) on the girls side, and by Monarch in come-from-behind fashion over Fountain Fort-Carson, on the boys side. Monarch posted the season's first sub 8:00 clocking.
The 100 meter hurdles was won easily, and impressively, by Dior Hall. The GW senior flew to victory in a meet record time of 13.39, with wind registered at -1.7 meters/second. Dominique Calloway's state record, as has been the case since Hall was a freshman, is in serious jeopardy. Poudre's Spencer Long won the boys 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles. Poudre's Carly Paul was second in both girls hurdles races - a nice showing for the Impalas over the sticks.
Following was the pre-meet marquee event of the Invitational, the girls 100 meter dash. Alleandra Watt of Pine Creek ran faster in the prelims than in the finals, albeit with less of a headwind. Her winning time of 11.95 was into a brisk wind of -3.2. Dior Hall, a mere ten minutes removed from her hurdles victory, was second followed by her Patriot teammate Alexis Groce in third and Chyna Ries in fourth. The boys century was won by Douglas County's Trey Smith in a stout 11.02 considering the headwind.
The 1600 meter run, another highly anticipated race, was chock full of talent for both genders. National class miler Katie Rainsberger of Air Academy floated away from Darby Gilfillan over the final circuit. Rainsberger's 4:56.40 was all the more impressive given the swirling winds at the time. West Grand's Tabor Scholl, coming off a nice performance at Mt. SAC last weekend, was third.
Cerake Geberkidane, in an anticipated attempt at the long-standing state record, ran strong in the breeze but ultimately fell a few ticks short. The Denver East senior had splits of 62, 65, 62, and 64 - possibly out a little faster than he'd like and ultimately hampered by the wind the last quarter. Hard to believe that his time of 4:13.63, easily one of the best ever run in Colorado, was not even a meet record!
Macey Kreutz (photo, above, by Ashley Green) of Highlands Ranch kicked strongly over the last 150 meters to win the 800 meter run in 2:13.53. Elissa Mann of Monarch, Darby Gilfillan, and Tabor Scholl all ran under 2:16.
The boys 800 field was bunched up at a pedestrian 59-60 seconds the first quarter due to the wind, before Cherry Creek's Daniel Book and imposing Monarch freshman Isaac Green sprinted away. Book's and Green's negative split finish times were 1:55.78 and 1:56.31, respectively.
Alleandra Watt led Pine Creek to meet records in the 800 meter relay in a blistering 1:39.65 and the 400 meter relay in 46.93. Eaglecrest finished second in the 800 meter relay. Their time of 1:40.45 dipped under the pre-existing record as well. The Raptors, putting together solid relays, came through with a victory in the 1600 meter relay.
Not surprisingly, Fountain-Fort Carson snared victories in the boys 400 and 800 meter relays. Their sprint talent and relay depth is off the charts. Valor Christian dominated the boys 1600 meter relay posting the state's first sub 3:20 time of the season at 3:19.81.
In other field event action, Regis' Austin Campbell, just a sophomore, has added his name to the list of top high jumpers in Colorado this spring. His leap of 6-8, with some good attempts at 6-10, was victorious.
The girls high jump saw yet another face-off between Carly Paul of Poudre and Rajon O'Quinn of Fountain-Fort Carson. This one went to Paul, with both girls tying the existing meet record of 5-6. In a battle between teammates in the long jump, the Highlands Ranch duo of Ben Morgan and Connor Turnage, the victory went to Morgan by a mere quarter of an inch, at 22-6.25.
In the penultimate event, the 200 meter dashes - as with the 400's - witnessed the withdrawal of several athletes. Nevertheless, Chyna Ries (photo, above, by Ashley Green) sprinted an outstanding 24.33, into a headwind of -1.3 m/s. Eaglecrest's Tashay Brown and Grandview frosh Michaela Onyenwere impressed as well at 24.55 and 24.61. The boys 200 meter race saw Jaysean Skrine of Fountain-Fort Carson outlean Kossi Tchenawou of Grandview, 21.65 to 21.70.
Team titles went to Fort Collins on the girls side, over DPS rivals Denver East and George Washington. Fountain-Fort Carson bested Poudre in the boys competition.
Katie Rainsberger, Ally Watt, and Isaac Green are just a sample of the athletes you can look forward to seeing at this weekend's Liberty Bell meet. Photos by Alan Versaw, Tim Hilt, and Ashley Green.
Quelling a few rumors and making sure you're up to speed on the latest meet news.