DENVER — Heritage Christian’s boys track and field team rightly accepted its 1A state-championship trophy late Saturday afternoon at Denver’s Jeffco Stadium at the end of the state track and field meet.
And then came Vail Christian boys to take home the second-place prize.
“Heritage Christian came over to congratulate us,” the Saints’ Ethan Pence said. “They had a wave of people and it took a while to shake everyone’s hands. They were wondering where the rest of our team was.”
That’s it, fellas. You saw all six of them.
Heritgae Christian edged out Vail Christian, 90-85, but the bigger story from an Eagle County point of view is that a sextet of kids could mount a challenge for a state title and become the best Saints track team in school history.
Six is a theme at Vail Christian. The girls had the same number and finished fourth with 65.5 points.
And that puts the wraps on a spectacular year for Vail Christian sports — state volleyball, state playoffs for football, state playoffs in basketball and top-five team finishes at state track.
This weekend alone, the Saints came home with seven school records, four event state titles and a second-place trophy for the boys.
“I’m really pleased,” Vail Christian athletic director and track coach Tim Pierson said. “This is a great group of kids who’ve created a great culture. I’m excited with what they’ve done athletically as well as in the classroom.”
Taylor Alexander nabbed bronze in the 100 meters and was just getting started. The sophomore got into the blocks and was in a battle royale in the 200 with Hi-Plains’ Hannah Herman.
With hamstring and shoulder injuries this year, Alexander hasn’t been able to compete much.
“I was prepared to hit a wall,” Alexander said.
In a little revenge for the school’s boys basketball team’s loss to the Patriots, Alexander nipped Herman by 5-hundredths of a second for a state title.
“I stuck my head out,” Alexander said. “It was definitely a close race. I really thought I was second. Then I heard, ‘Taylor Alexander with a time of …’ Omigosh.”
Then it was off to the 400 relay with seniors Bella McCormick, Kristen Currey and Celia Smith. They were the defending champs and now they have gone back-to-back with a time of 52.62 seconds.
“The team is definitely the most important part,” Alexander said. “We left everything out on the track.”
That is three state titles for Alexander at the 2014 state meet — she won pole vault on Thursday. She’s got five state gold in two years. And Smith, as part of the 400 team, captured her ninth top-3 medal for her career.
Vail Christian sophomore Nick Boyne kept the Saints boys’ streak of pole vaulting titles going. Gunnar Wilson won in 2012, Mack Cooper in 2013 and now Boyne.
He entered at 10 feet, 5 inches, and cleared that and 10-11 easily. By 11-5, he was the state champ — teammate Cooper Daniels went out as a bronze medalist at 10-6, and it was time to slow down.
“It felt good,” Boyne said. “What was pretty funny was normally you have only one minute to complete your vault. But when you’re the only one left at state, you have five minutes. The (official) told me to come down, that there was no need to rush.”
Since Boyne’s personal best was 12-1, he had the bar set at 12-2, and that was the official final jump.
On the podium, however, Boyne and Daniels had a little fun.
“We goofed around for one shot and switched spots with Cooper on top of the podium,” Boyne said.
For the record, Boyne keeps the gold medal.
Run, Cole, run
When you only have six kids on a team, life gets busy. Cole Caynoski ran for three touchdowns on Saturday. That’s not unusual. He does that in the fall regularly.
Without pads, Caynoski won bronze medals in the open 100, 200 and 400 on Saturday. That’s 21 team points.
In fact, Caynoski was in 29 because he was also part of the 800 relay team on Friday that finished second. (Apparently, the Saints went for the 2-point conversion on that score.)
“He qualified for six events if CHSAA would have let him,” said teammate Ethan Pence. “What he did today was pretty spectacular.”
Pence wasn’t so bad himself. He’d already won medals in the 3,200 and 800 earlier in the meet. On Saturday, he was fourth in the 1,600 and helped the mile relay to silver. That team included Mason Daniels, Cooper Daniels and Boyne.
“My parents made me take an ice bath every night. At the time, it was pretty miserable,” Pence said. “But it definitely helped a lot. There was no problem with sleep. I zonked out every night.”
And as for today, Pence’s plans are likely pretty much what’s on tap for everyone at Vail Christian.
“Sunday is ‘Ethan Sleeps for Two Days Day,’” Pence joked. “(Battle Mountain running coach Rob) Parish was joking with me that cross-country practice starts Monday.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.