Alex Mead overtakes Troy Johnson in last year's state 100 meter final. Colorado Track XC file photo.
As the state's sprinters look forward to this spring, one they're probably not hoping for is a repeat of the chilly conditions on the Thursday of the state meet. It seemed like every other heat featured a yanked hamstring. A lot of talent never made it to the finals of the 100 or 200 in several different classifications.
Frankly, most of that talent is coming back this spring. It should be a very good year for boys' sprints. To see just how good, let's break it down by event and classification:
Really, what more could you ask for? Coming back are, in no particular order, Chaz Butler (Overland), Markesh Woodson (Fountain-Fort Carson), Gavin McHenry (Chaparral), Raymond Bozmans (Fort Collins), and Marcus Harris (Eaglecrest). Here is what last year's state final looked like. At one time or another, each of these guys ran a wind-legal 100 in 10.62 or faster. Markesh Woodson gets to defend a state title, but it will be no easy defense against this crew. You can fill out the lanes of the state final with guys like Solyde Bankston, Joey Scott, Erik Gaytan, Enyinna Isiguzo, or just take your pick from a boatload of guys with speed to burn.
Jaylyn Mars has been increasing the value of his stock with a nice set of indoor performances. But, it's likely that his Mullen teammate, Cyler Miles, won't be running alongside him this spring. A football injury and the general nervousness of college coaches who have signed a prize recruit may double up to keep Miles off the track. Also gone from the track this spring is Discovery Canyon speedster Christian Fournier. That thins the field out a little, but Harrison Einspahr (Broomfield), Brandon Cartagena, Josh Lewis (both Vista Ridge), and Kalen Ballage (Falcon), should be enough to keep things interesting. Mars and Cartagena carry the two best returning times from last year.
Although the 100 is probably not Alex Mead's best event, this one could be a big gapper; Mead has clearly progressed from where he was last spring, as good as that was. Behind Mead's 10.93 from last spring, the two best returning times are 11.21 (Troy Johnson, Berthoud) and 11.36 (Sean Robnett, Machebeuf). Pencil in Mead as the favorite.
Unlike 3A, this one figures to be very close from the outset. Tyler Cappellucci of Hoehne and Forrest Donnell of Lyons had season-best marks from last spring that were separated by a mere .03 of a second. It's way to easy for a year's progression on the part of either athlete to wipe out that kind of gap. Toby Casias of Meeker could figure in this one as well. Casias certainly wasn't far back last spring. A lot of other guys will be battling it out to get a lane in the finals of the state meet.
We might need to designate this one the southeast Colorado sprint championships. The top four marks from last year all come out of the far southest corner of the state--Alberto Gutierrez of Kit Carson, Dillon Rose of Springfield, Jason Barth of Holly, and Jonathan England of Walsh. Springfield probably could put another guy into the top five of the 100-meter rankings if they were so inclined. This is precisely why qualification to state by rankings is a good idea, if you don't mind my little bit of editorializing. But., also keep an eye on Robert Ryland of Sierra Grande. Ryland went down to Albuquerque for a couple of indoor meets this winter and ran very well.
200 meters doesn't seem that much longer than 100 meters (at least not to my distance-biased head), but it's obvious from the list of contenders that the two races are very different, indeed.
Fast is fast, and the top five guys from the 100 also return the top five times in the 200, only in different order. Raymonds Bozmans posted the best returning 200 time from last spring, with Woodson and McHenry right on his heels. Marcus Harris and Chaz Butler are further back from the lead in the 200 rankings from last year, and George Washington's Enyinna Isiguzo climbs several notches from his 100 meter ranking. Grandview's Glen Taylor had much too good of a winter running 200s on indoor tracks not to be taken seriously in this event. The title appears, at this early stage, to come down between Woodson, Bozmans, and McHenry, but the remaining places should be a scramble.
Jaylyn Mars is in his element at 200 meters, and nothing about this winter's indoor results would refute that (though he does seem to have improved his raw speed over last year more than his 200 meter speed). Cartagena and Einspahr figure to be the next two, though maybe or maybe not in that order. Not far behind them are Demetrius Warren (Vista Ridge) and Jamal Shields (Thomas Jefferson). And, although, this little piece isn't about relays, if you've been paying attention this far, you have to have a decent idea that Vista Ridge's sprint relays could be absolutely devastating this spring.
200 meters probably is Alex Mead's best event. His main competition figures to come from a guy whose best event is at 400 meters--Rifle's Andrew Proebstle. Proebstle had the faster time last spring, but Mead's Simplot Games title in this event speaks volumes to the fact that Mead has been working his game over the intervening months. Sean Robnett, Nic Heller (Buena Vista), and Denzel Bland (Manitou Springs) are each sub-23 guys back from last spring, but sub-23 isn't winner's circle kind of territory in 3A this year.
Casias, Cappellucci, and Donnel are back as serious contenders in this event as well, but last year's best time, by about two-tenths of a second, belongs to Coley David of Burlington. Interestingly, David did not have his best run of the season this event at last year's state meet; that may have something to do with level of fatigue attained by the end of the day when the 200 finally rolled around. Although David definitely has a couple other solid events, it will be very tough for Burlington to overlook the 200 meter possibilities this spring. Pencil David in as the favorite, but keep an eye out for further developments from just this side of Kansas. Also keep half an eye out for Ignacio's Adam Herrera. As a freshman last spring, Herrera clocked a wind-legal 23.37 in this event. If the usual speed progression of high school boys applies to Herrera, he could easily find himself in the mix of this event this spring.
Without Landry Cogburn to chase around the track, this one figures to come down between Springfield's Bric Koehn and Sierra Grande's Robert Ryland. Gutierrez of Kit Carson, the top returning 100, was definitely a few steps back of these guys in the 200 last spring.
Many used to say that the 400 meters was the cruelest event in high school track and field. But, that was back in the day of the 180 hurdles and before high school 800s started to regularly look like sprints. The 400 is, however, still a very tough event. My most vivid memory of running 400s in high school was looking forward to them being over. It's rare these days to see 100-200-400 sweeps in big meets. Simply stated, very few guys have that kind of range.
So many possibilities here. Erik Gaytan definitely has the raw speed to win this thing, and has the best returning time from last spring, but it's nothing like a done deal at this point. Raymond Bozmans dabbled in this event a couple of times last spring and showed incredible promise. Whether he comes back to this event seriously this spring remains to be seen. Kordell Deffebaugh (Montbello) and Ben Goodman (Palmer) are certified 400 specialists. Barring injury, you can figure on having to account for these two guys at the state meet. Sub-48s seem very possible for both. Jordan Medina of Rangeview, who showed up on the indoor circuit this winter, could figure in as well. Rangeview always develops their 400s well.
After the manner in which Nolan Mayhew and Boris Berian dominated this event last spring, the 4A 400 this spring is going to sound--at least for a little while--like the guys you've never heard of. Look at Zach McCoy of Canon City (48.94) and Logan Stout of Pueblo County (49.18) as the early favorites, but also keep an eye on Jamal Shields.
Andrew Proebstle starts the season with a gap of better than 1.5 seconds on the field. That's a huge gap for anyone to overcome, and it's clearly Proebstle's best event. And, Rifle needs those 10 points in the team title derby. It's going to take some major excavation work to undermine this one. Behind Proebstle, it's Zerek Jones of Pagosa Springs and then a pack of 51-something guys from last year. As an interesting sidebar to this discussion, eight of the top 13 returners in this event come from three schools. That would suggest that the 4x400 likely comes down between Rifle, Pagosa Springs, and The Classical Academy.
Ryan Boucher's 400s tailed off a little toward the end of last season. If he can reverse that trend this season, he should be the 2A favorite and another piece in a puzzle of potential domination for Lyons. Chasing Boucher is a solid pack of Coley David, Alex Quintana (Holyoke), and Adam Herrera. Herrera's best 400 time of 50.53 may be even more impressive for a freshman than his best 200 time (see above). In any case, he's among the clear favorites for the 400 meters.
Realistically, there are three guys in a reasonable position to win this one. Robert Ryland takes on the 400 as his personal best event and likely figures as the favorite among the favorites. Making sure he takes nothing for granted, however, are Jonathan England and Cotopaxi's Denver Acres. So far as I know, Denver Acres is merely a cool name and not an indication that the major city of the Front Range has designs on annexation along the Arkansas River. The upper Arkansas River corridor has issues enough to contend with these days as it is. Back to the issue at hand, the 1A 400 should prove to be very interesting this spring. Walsh will be looking for points here in their bid to repeat as state champions. Springfield has guys who can run nice 400s, but they mostly put those eggs in the relay basket last spring. It will be very interesting to see how Walsh and Springfield strategize the state meet this year, and the 400 figures to be a key event in that chess match.