Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Vail Christian load up the buses for the state track meet today with competition starting on Thursday at Jeffco Stadium in Denver, and the Huskies and Devils apparently have some not-so-secret weapons.
Before delving into the state meet, Eagle Valley’s Jeff Shroll and Battle Mountain’s Rob Parish are your 4A Slope Coaches of the Year in track and field.
“Parish is very deserving,” said Shroll when asked about his own honor, trying to deflect the attention. “If you don’t have an amazing support staff, great coaches, great athletes, great parents, you don’t get to be Coach of the Year. I’m honored by it, but you have to have a good team to get that.”
Parish mirrored Shroll’s remarks.
“That’s a team award,” he said. “The whole team performs well for that to happen. We have a great coaching staff with a lot of experts in their disciplines. It’s a great coaching staff and a lot of athletes working hard.”
And as uncomfortable as the two coaches were talking about their honors, both are clearly deserving. Shroll’s Eagle Valley boys team and Parish’s Battle Mountain girls teams won league titles last week in Grand Junction.
Every state meet begins with a primal scream for those who didn’t make it. Eagle Valley’s boys 800 team, which set a school record, still missed qualifying by five-hundredths of a second.
On the other hand, the Devils got two relay teams (boys 400 and 1,600) in via the 18th and final spot. Two years ago, Eagle Valley’s boys 3,200 team finished 19th, which is the cruelest place when it comes to the state rankings. That quartet had no worries this spring. They were ninth out of 18.
And that brings up the experience card. The state meet is a zoo with all five classifications going at once and easily the biggest crowd of the season. Those who have competed before in this setting know what it’s like.
“It certainly helps. Hunter Burnham in the 4-by-8’s been there before,” Shroll said. “He can relay to the team what it’s like. This is not a small meet where we dominate everyone. Instead of being the big fish in a small pond, we’re the small fish in a big pond. He’s been helpful in explaining that these are the best 18 athletes or teams in the state.”
Eagle Valley’s Michelle Carbajal returns to state as the No. 1-ranked athlete in the triple jump. She had the same designation last year, and finished fifth.
The Devils have been tapering for a week or two, according to Shroll.
“It’s a lot of mental preparation,” the coach said. “If you’re not in shape, it’s not like that’s going to happen now. It’s concentrating and believing you belong there and believing you’re there to perform.”
Aaron Kline, No. 3 in the pole vault, is certainly in the hunt for a state medal as well.
Battle Mountain will be more represented on the girls’ side. David Suqarez and Austin Tafoya are the only two gents at the meet.
By seed, the girls 3,200 relay is the team’s best chance to medal. However, Parish thinks that the girls 1,600 team at No. 13 is deceiving.
The team ran in 4 minutes, 7 seconds last weekend without Val Constien, whom Parish entered in the mile to pick up points. Insert Constien and the 4:07 may drop a bit.
And speaking of Constien, she might be someone to watch this weekend. She was third in the triple jump last year at state and fourth in the 800. She also popped into fifth place in the state last fall in cross country. She always seems to be one of those pleasant surprises at the end of a season.
“She does a good job with peaking,” Parish said. “She’s a gamer.”
Vail Christian might be the local team to make the most noise. In fact, milesplit.com, the site which lists the oft-checked state 18, has dubbed the Saints ladies as potential favorites to win the 1A state title.
That may be jumping the gun, but Vail Christian’s girls team is well-positioned in the rankings. Taylor Alexander is ranked No. 1 in the 200 and the pole vault and second in the 100. Pole vault may well be not the state championship, but a school-title competition. Alexander leads at 10 feet, 3 inches. Teammate Celia Smith is second at 9-3, and the next nearest vaulter is at 7-10.
The Saints girls 800 relay is also ranked No. 1 in 1A. Smith, who finished third in high jump last year, is in the same position entering this year’s meet.
While Cole Caynoski and Ethan Pence should have busy weekends for the guys, Mack Cooper is ranked No. 2 in the state in pole vault. He has been hampered by hamstring injury since his qualifying leap in March.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.