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Eagle Valley runners return from Nationals in North Carolina as All Americans

Eagle Valley High School’s Joslin and Samantha Blair, Jewel Scrivens and Avery Doan recently returned from their first New Balance Nationals Outdoor competition in Greensboro, North Carolina — as All Americans.

Featuring top runners from the U.S., Canada and commonwealth states and territories, the New Balance Nationals Outdoor in June features the “best of the best,” said Eagle Valley Track Club coach Charles Janssen, a coach with the high school’s program as well.

“To work with such young, malleable, hard working, talented and smart girls has been an honor,” Janssen said. “They are super coachable. The staff is awesome. The school is awesome. We went there on a mission to become All Americans, and they did exactly that. It was a perfect capstone to a long day at the end of a long season.”

The New Balance Nationals Outdoor is an elite postseason meet including divisions for middle schoolers; high school freshmen; emerging elites; and champions.
Special to the Daily

Samantha Blair, who just finished her freshman year at Eagle Valley, took third place in the emerging elite 800-meter race at Nationals Outdoor with a time of 2:11.65, a personal best, the 10th best time in the U.S. for a freshman and fifth fastest recorded for an athlete in the state of Colorado.

“For a freshman, it was really remarkable,” her coach said. “It was an amazing race.”

Older sister Joslin Blair, entering her senior season next year, finished the mile in fifth in the champion division with a 4:53.19, a 4-second personal best and third best from the state of Colorado. With the fifth-place finish, Joslin Blair earned All American honors. Going into the last lap of the mile race, she was in eighth before making a move to win by 0.06 seconds.

“It was a barn burner of a race,” Janssen said. “It was perfectly execute.

Earlier in the weekend, the four Eagle Valley runners finished third in the 4-by-800 meter relay in the emerging elite divison.

The final race of the weekend was the DMR — distance medley relay — in the champion division. Joslin Blair opened the race with the 1,200; then Scrivens ran the 400; Doan ran the 800; and Samantha Blair finished with the 1,600. With a time of 11:57.04, the girls finished with a fifth-place finish in the champion division — making them All Americans together.

“Most people don’t hear about people becoming All Americans until they get to college,” Janssen said. “So to become a high school All American is a pretty big deal. It’s a very small pool of athletes.”

To qualify as an All American, runners had to finish in the top 6 in the champion division.

Devils gaining momentum

The New Balance Nationals Outdoor brings runners from across the U.S., Canada and other commonwealth states and territories.
Special to the Daily

The elite postseason meet in North Carolina requires tough standards to qualify. However, Eagle Valley had a strong year this past season.

“This past year the girls were eighth at the state meet, which doesn’t sound ultra glamorous, but that was the best finish that Eagle Valley girls have ever done,” Janssen said.

Joslin Blair helped lead the way, winning the state tournament mile race, earning second team all-regional honors at the Nike Cross Regionals and also winning a European Cup out of Italy last summer.

“The Eagle Valley program has really gained steam and prestige,” Janssen said. “To compete with the likes of Battle Mountain and Niwot is really awesome because they’re both really storied, amazing programs.”

While Battle Mountain was not in attendance at the Nationals Outdoor in North Carolina, Niwot sent some runners. Janssen was pleased with Eagle Valley’s DMR time, a few seconds faster than Niwot’s.

“For us to run faster than they did — I mean, that girls program last year set the 4A class record with the lowest points scored at a state meet ever,” Janssen said.

For the Blair sisters and Scrivens, their time with Eagle Valley is not done, as the trio will be returning next year. For Doan, however, she has graduated and is committed to Loyola Marymount University in L.A.

“That was an amazing way to cap off a really decorated career at Eagle Valley for her,” Janssen said of Doan.

While the training never stops, a full summer awaits before Eagle Valley High School’s next season.

“It’s a pretty big honor to be able to compete in that realm,” Janssen said. “It was really exciting for all of us, really.”

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

Vail Valley preps: Ladies ruled the roost in 2018-19

Girls rule.

In 2018-19 in high school, the ladies, regardless of season, dominated the headlines, be it cross-country, volleyball, basketball, skiing, track and field or soccer.

Consider this: In most years, Battle Mountain’s Claire Krueger would have won the Senior Athlete Award at her school. She’s eminently qualified, having played four years of varsity basketball, leading the Huskies to an improbable league title, the first for the ladies since 1993.

Krueger was also the Co-Western Slope Player of the Year in soccer, spearheading an air-tight defense that allowed just two goals in 12 league games.

Battle Mountain’s Claire Krueger heads to the hoop during the Huskies’ 50-45 win over Glenwood Springs in February. Krueger helped lead the Huskies to league titles in both basketball and soccer this year. (Daily file photo)
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

Her teammate in both sports, Audrey Teague had a great year. She had league titles in basketball and also in soccer. In the spring, she put up 23 goals, more than she had in 2018 when she also won a share of the Western Slope Player of the year.

The duo were both out of the running.

The Huskies athletic department had to figure out which Harding sister — Lizzy or Naomi — deserved the award. Both are fast on trails, snow or a track. Naomi won by a hair. Personally, I would have cut the “B” in half and split it between the two sisters.

And this was all just happening in Edwards. Vail Mountain School volleyball made the state tournament for the first time since 2005. VMS soccer roared to the quarterfinals in the spring. VMS golf qualified for state.

Front and center

And in Gypsum, the Blair sisters, Joslin and Samantha continue to rampage. To the dismay of the rest of the Western Slope, both return next year. Yikes.

Too often, girls sports play a backseat to their male counterparts. Let’s be honest, when Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley play basketball, the house is full for the gents with the girls game being the undercard.

Battle Mountain’s Audrey Teague leads Battle Mountain soccer to another playoff appearance in 2019. (Daily file photo)

With some notable exceptions, expectations just aren’t as high for girls sports as they are for the boys. If a girls team has a losing season, the commentary is “Oh well, they tried hard.”

The notable exceptions have been Battle Mountain running (eight regional titles in a row and two titles and two second-place finishes in the last four years in cross-country and five league titles running in track and field) and Battle Mountain soccer, where a league title is almost expected.

Now Huskies running has competition from Eagle Valley, This is so rare, people. Anything between the Huskies and Devils is a big thing, an event. But rarely does anything Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain mean something outside of Eagle County.

Think about it. The last time a Battle Mountain-Eagle Valley game had playoff implications for both teams was 1985. In boys soccer, 2008 and 2009 were the only years the schools went head-to-head.

In cross-country, Battle Mountain’s Naomi Harding won the regional title in 2018. She turned her title over to Eagle Valley’s Joslin Blair in 2019. With Joslin and Samantha Blair and Avery Doan, the Huskies and Devils both sent teams to state in cross-country.

In the spring, the 1,600 meters at the state has become an Eagle County thing. Joslin Blair won the mile in 2018. Lizzy Naomi Harding went 1-2 this spring.

Also at state Battle Mountain, three-peated in the 4-by-8. Elliot Pribramsky, Grace Johnson and the Harding finished ahead of … Eagle Valley’s Jewel Scrivens, Doan, and the Blairs. Yep, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley’s girls topped the state.

What’s next?

The Hardings have really done everything a person can do — team titles both state and league, individual titles. Heck, they and Grace Johnson put on skis for Nordic and led Battle Mountain to a state title during the winter. How crazy is that?

I think, though, I’m more excited to see what’s to come. As noted, the Blairs return. FYI, Samantha, not Joslin, holds the school’s cross-country record as a freshman, even though she’s probably more of sprinting specialist. (Telling either one of the Blairs what they can’t do is probably a bad idea.)

What do they do next year? Can Eagle Valley find a few more in cross-country and challenge the Huskies’ octo-peat in the fall? How do Johnson and Pribramsky step up into the Nos. 1 and 1a roles. More importantly, who fills in the ranks from Battle Mountain’s seemingly endless pipeline of female running? Is it, in fact, endless?

As much as Teague and Krueger have given to basketball and soccer at Battle Mountain — a lot — who steps up? The answers could be Gabby Caballero (basketball and soccer) and Alden Pennington (basketball and running).

The Class of 2019 ladies’ legacy is not only winning — a ton — but also setting a foundation for the future. We’ll see you in August.

Vail Valley preps: The games of the year

It never ceases to amaze me that I can still see something new during a high school sports year.

This wraps 22 years of covering preps in Eagle County. Multiply that by three installments of sports every year and you have 66 seasons of sport.

Two years ago, I thought I saw the capper of cappers when Battle Mountain goalie Jordan Glendining scored from the run of play in overtime. Seriously. who do you top that?

As it turns out, you top that with Eagle Valley basketball beating Battle Mountain, 110-102, in a regulation 32-minute game in 2018.

And after that, there was no way anything Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain basketball could do in 2019, right? Except they went into triple overtime with the Devils prevailing.

Get the ball to Sarah

Vail Mountain School volleyball made the state tournament for the first time since 2005, but it was how it got there that made it memorable.

The Gore Rangers not only went five games against the Dawson School in the de facto regional championship game but were down 13-10 in the final stanza, two points from being eliminated.

A team usually likes to mix up the attack. Player A attacks on one play, followed by player B, so the opposing squad doesn’t move its entire block to guard a sole threat. Yet there are times when a team goes to its best player and that was the case against the Mustangs.

This was Keyshon Johnson and “Give me the damn ball” on a volleyball court. VMS’ Sarah Evans is too polite to go Keyshon Johnson on her teammates. It was just a natural consequence — with the season on the line, you want your best outside hitter pounding the hooey out of the ball.

The thing was that everybody in the gym in the East Vail — the Dawson School included — knew that the ball was going to No. 10. The Dawson School called two timeouts during the sequence. The visitors called two timeouts, ostensibly to break the rhythm of VMS and to emphasize the point that the ball was going to No. 10.

Didn’t matter. Points, set and match to VMS.

TCA exorcism

The ultimate nemesis of Battle Mountain boys soccer will always be Evergreen for me, but for the more recent generation of Huskies’ XIs, it’s The Classical Academy.

The scoreboard says it all after Battle Mountain soccer defeats The Classical Academy, 2-0.
(Daily file photo)

Chris Freud | Daily file photo

First of all, there’s the “The.” Really? You think you’re The Ohio State University? The Huskies were probably more concerned with an 0-5 record against TCA during the previous four years, the most noteworthy loss being a 7-1 rout in the 2016 state-title game in 2016.

Dani Barajas scored twice, the Huskies won, 2-0, and Battle Mountain celebrated like it 2012 with apologies to Prince.

Huskies 45, Rifle 29

If you see the above score, the average Battle Mountain fan would think that was a good evening, more likely the Huskies boys basketball team beating the Bears.

But that was the Battle Mountain girls basketball team winning its first Western Slope title since 1993. I think I will live to see Battle Mountain football win a Slope title. (They came close in 2011.)

I did not think I would live long enough for Battle Mountain girls basketball to top the league. Glad to be wrong. Wilder Isom served as the human-victory cigar coming off the bench to sink a free throw, which sent everyone into the gym into a frenzy. (Miss Isom proved to be a pretty good goalie in the spring.)

Triple overtime

On the boys’ side of the basketball rivalry, we really should just play the games in Edwards. Yes, Eagle Valley would probably like to host, but the last three years the Devils and Huskies have met upvalley, they’ve been epic games.

Eagle Valley’s Xaver Johnson goes up for two during his team’s marathon game with Battle Mountain in late January. The Devils beat the Huskies, 82-78, in triple overtime. (Daily file photo)
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

The Huskies upset the Devils in OT in 2017. The Devils dropped 110 points in 2018 on the Huskies. And in 2019, the two teams were tied at 55 after regulation and it took three extra periods to make Eagle valley an 82-78 winner.

As thrilling as this was, there was also a journalistic concern involved. Hey, fellas, I’ve got a deadline here. Could someone please win this game? As such, attaboy to the Devils’ Carlos Quezada, whose 3 in the third OT broke this open.

Reef rules

If it’s possible, the Lauren Mutter Memorial Game was one of the best and worst moments of the year. Yes, it’s been more than two months since Vail Christian alumna and coach Lauren Mutter passed away.

I still have a hard time referring to her in the past tense. I haven’t fully processed it, but this was a step. It was essentially a friendly between Vail Christian and Battle Mountain that morphed into a soccer mosh pit.

Coaches David Cope and Barbara Wilson chat before the Lauren Mutter Memorial Game in May. (Daily file photo)

During the second half, Vail Christian, Battle Mountain, and Vail Mountain all mixed up teams and then the numbers started increasing. there were roughly 40 players on the field simultaneously. With 20 per side, are teams playing the traditional 7-8-4?

Reef Kenney, 12, scored on goalie Audrey Teague on a correctly called penalty kick — too many players on the pitch? — to wrap the game.

Local laxers dot all-league squad

OK, so how does this work?

Traditionally, you start three attackers in lacrosse. Going over the all-league team, Battle Mountain’s Tucker Morrow (41 goals, 12 assists) and Eagle Valley’s Philip Petersen (54-20) obviously start. But what about the third spot?

Vail Mountain has Becker Dienst with 28 and 17 as a sophomore. How about the Devils’ Bergen Blomquist (23-16) or the Huskies’ Jayme Belyea (21-22). Do you move Blomquist back to his traditional midfielder spot? That works, but what about Dienst and Belyea for one spot?

The local squads also have three goalies — Conner Underwood, Mason Jurcak and Matt Gay — on the all-league squad. That’s another mathematical issue.

Eagle Valley’s Bergen Blomquist helps his team make the playoffs for the first time since 2013. (Daily file photo)
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

It’s a good problem to have and a statement of the level of lacrosse in Eagle County.

Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley both made the playoffs this spring. The Huskies rallied from 4-7 to continue their run of postseason appearances, dating back to 2013, in tact, while the Devils made it for only the second time in school history (2013).

And their path seemed to cross in 2019. Eagle Valley served notice that it would be a playoff team by beating Battle Mountain, 12-11, in March. The Huskies kicked their playoff drive into gear by returning the favor, 11-8, in April.

Meanwhile, it was a rough year for Vail Mountain School with a 4-11 record. However, four of the five Gore Rangers’ all-league selections are underclassmen.

Vail Valley soccer players reel in honors

Thirty-five wins, three of them in the playoffs — 4A or 3A — a league title (Battle Mountain), a run to the state quarterfinals (Vail Mountain) and the revival of a program (Vail Christian).

All and all, it was a great year on the pitch for girls soccer throughout Eagle County. And the postseason honors show it. Eighteen Huskies, Devils, Gore Rangers and Saints made some form of all-league in their respective league.

Heck, most of them were all on the same field all at once during the Lauren Mutter Memorial Game earlier this month.

But it’s nice to see certain players get their due.

Staying in the house

The 2018 4A Slope Player of the Year was Battle Mountain’s Audrey Teague. At least part of the award is staying in Edwards. Battle Mountain’s Claire Krueger and Glenwood Springs’ Sarah Helm are co-Players of the year.

Teague certainly had a case to repeat — she scored 21 goals, more goals than last year, during the regular season, upon which these awards were voted. Yet Krueger is a satisfying choice.

The 2019 Huskies came together through their defense — Krueger, Maggie Skidmore, Addie Smith, Isabel McMurrain, Cayla Woodworth and Wilder Isom. Shutouts in 11 of 12 league games were the team’s pride and joy.

Battle Mountain’s Audrey Teague finishes the season with 23 goals in all. Not surprisingly, she was all-league this spring. (Chris Dillmann | Daily file photo)
Chris Dillmann | Daily file photo

Ergo, Krueger: It’s also worth noting that the defender scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Glenwood Springs, a contest crucial to the Huskies repeating.

The league’s Coach of the Year is shockingly David Cope. Not. Cope — since he’s won this award so many times we’ve lost count — wants to call this award Staff of the Year. So he shares it Becki Kenney.

Speaking of Kenneys, we really think Reef got snubbed.

Cult of the center back

VMS soccer found itself late this spring, and it was worth the wait. The No. 21-ranked Gore Rangers raced to the Elite Eight again.

While again, the awards are based on the regular season, Lamar Campbell had the hat trick of the season as the Gore Rangers rallied from down 3-0 to beat Stargate School during the second round of the playoffs.

Vail Mountain School soccer Sammy Gish (8) leads her team on and off the pitch. (Daily file photo)
Daily file photo

And then there was Sammy Gish. If anyone’s ever come within smelling distance of Vail Mountain soccer, one knows the importance of the center back in the Gore Rangers’ system. (Sort of like Krueger at Battle Mountain; the two teams play the same way.)

Gish anchored the team on and off the field. The cult of the center back lives on.

A new record

Vail Christian fell short of the ultimate goal — making the 2A playoffs. But 6-5 after its previous varsity record of 2-11 would be a step in the right direction.

Vail Christian’s Zoey Barela sets a new school record with 13 goals in 2019. (Daily file photo)
Mort Mulliken | Daily file photo

Zoey Barela brought the term “Bye, Felicia” to the Saints, scoring 13 goals, a new school record. And in a season of sisters, Gretchen and Robin Pavelich shone brightly on defense. (Cult of the center back, anyone?)

Vail Mountain School golf survives state

There’s a reason high country golfers can pretty much live out of their golf bags.

Said bag generally includes clubs and standard gear, but also layers — a rain suit, fleeces, assorted hats, hand warmers and gloves, etc.

The great state of Colorado got a reminder of why as snow hit all three state tournaments on Tuesday reducing the 5A, 4A and 3A championships to one-round affairs.

Chsaanow.com announced on Tuesday morning that all three tournament sites — Harmony Club (5A) outside of Fort Collins, Pelican Lakes (4A) in Windsor and Eagle Ranch (3A) — were unplayable. CHSAA added that it concerns for travel for the teams and players at Eagle Ranch were part of that decision, which seems fair given that Interstate 70 was closed at various points on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t just having state golf at Eagle Ranch was a bad thing,” Vail Mountain School golf coach Gary Pesso said. “It was bad weather everywhere.”

Vail Mountain School’s Lauren Dirvonas grips it and rips it during the 3A state tournament at Eagle Ranch. The Gore Rangers tied for eighth as a team. (James Mill | Special to the Daily)

After a windy rainy-turning to sleet day at Eagle Ranch, Tuesday’s second round was pretty much a goner on Monday evening.

“We all agreed on (Monday) night that it didn’t look good,” Pesso said. “We were going to meet at the golf course at 7:30 a.m. When I pulled in, there was a CHSAA (representative) already on the phone.”

As such, Vail Mountain School golf ended up finishing eighth out of 15 full teams in 3A at Eagle Ranch after Monday’s action. Senior Chloe Pesso led the way with a 97. It’s worth noting that scoring was up across the board at all three tournament sites because of the weather.

At Eagle Ranch, only Colorado Academy’s Caroline Jordaan broke par with a 71. VMS’ Lauren Dirvonas and sophomore Carey Salvin also turned in complete rounds.

Meanwhile, at Pelican Lake, Battle Mountain’s Madi Bennett led the way with a 95. Eagle Valley’s Kaitlin Medina carded a 98, followed by teammate Kylee Hughes (100).

Vail Christian’s Kinsella golden in 200

Lean, Kellen, lean.

Vail Christian’s Kellen Kinsella won the 2A title in the open 200 meters on Saturday in a photo finish with Rocky Ford’s David Trujillo at Lakewood’s Jeffco Stadium.

The Saints senior came from behind during the final strides.

“I had no idea,” Kinsella said of the wait for the result. “I was pretty sure I lost.”

How long was the wait, Kellen?

“Like 15 minutes,” he joked. “It was probably more like 15 seconds.”

That was Kinsella’s second gold of the weekend — he also was part of Vail Christian’s winner in the 800 relay on Friday. And he finished third in the 400 and fifth in the 100.

This was all part of a fantastic weekend for the Saints, whose boys finished fifth in the state, while the ladies were eighth in Class 2A.

Thousandths of seconds

Nobody had a clue who won the 2A 200.

“He leans really well,” Saints coach Jen Sticksel said of Kinsella. “Maybe? I couldn’t tell it was so close.”

Kinsella credited the win to form.

“I’d say when you’re running, you get tired at about 150 meters,” he said. “When you’re tired, you need to keep your form to be fast and efficient.”

Vail Christian’s Kellen Kinsella has himself a day Saturday at state. In addition to winning the 200, he was third in the 400 and fifth in the 100. (Shelby Sticksel | Special to the Daily)

While it’s stipulated that alpine skiing and track and field are completely different forms of athletic activity, Kinsella, recently named to the U.S. Ski Team, does have a lot of experience watching video of himself, and keeping one’s form can mean the smallest morsels of time.

Officially, Kinsella finished in 23.005 seconds, with Trujillo at 23.007 seconds.

Ironically, on Saturday, Kinsella ran personal bests in the 100 and 400 and didn’t achieve his goal of breaking 23 seconds in the 200. Of course, he’s not going to give the 200 title back, but he seemed more excited about his personal record in the 400.

“When they told me I ran 50.7 seconds in the 400, I was pumped,” he said. “My previous best was 52.9.”

Mom’s happy

Vail Christian seemed all over the place — in a good way — on Saturday. The boys mile relay took second. That’s E.J. Koller, Hayden Sticksel, Luke Bowers and Quinn Mitchell. P.G. Nklang’ango, Zach Dolan, Sticksel and Mitchell were third in the 400 relay.

Of course, coach Jen Sticksel is not the first parent to coach her own kid. It’s quite commonplace, particularly at Vail Christian (Cathy and Charlie Alexander in volleyball and pole vault with Kylie and Taylor, and Shledon Kuhns in basketball with both Ethan and Abby).

Vail Christian sophomore Kendelle Smith continues to shine on the big stage, finishing fourth in both the 200 and 400 meters on Saturday. (Shelby Sticksel | Special to the Daily)

Of course, coach Sticksel is all about what’s best for the Saints in the big picture, but those two races made her a happy camper Saturday.

“They’re all really good friends, and nothing makes Mom feel better than watching her son jump up and down,” coach Sticksel said.

Another thing that’ll make the coach happy is that Kendelle Smith finished fourth in both the 200 and 400. Mariana Engleby was also in the points in the 400. With Catherine Donoho likely back from injury next year, the Saints have a bunch of young female sprinters returning.

Battle Mountain’s Lizzie and Naomi go 1-2 in 1,600

That was one hell of a valedictory.

For a pair of Huskies who have meant so much to Battle Mountain running, fall or spring, the Harding sisters shot off one last set of fireworks on the final day of the 4A state meet Saturday at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood..

Lizzy Harding ran away with the 1,600-meter state crown, with a time of 4 minutes, 58.49 seconds, followed by Naomi in second place at 5:00.38. The defending state champion in the 1,600, Eagle Valley’s Joslin Blair, was fourth in 5:01.18, with Samantha Blair in eighth.

There will be more meets for the Blair sisters, but the Hardings, both seniors, closed their careers with a staggering performance.

Naomi (6) and Lizzy Harding catch their breath after dominating the 1,600 meters at state. The two finished their Battle Mountain running careers in style on Saturday. (Jim Harding | Special to the Daily)

“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s completely sunk in yet,” Lizzy said. “I think (the race) played out really well for me. I was able to stick with the top girls and then make a move.”

How much have these two meant to Battle Mountain running?

• With the Hardings, Huskies cross country has won two state titles (2016 and 2017) and finished second (2015 and 2018) in their four years. Naomi was also a regional champion in 2017.

• The Battle Mountain ski team won its first state title since 1998 with the Hardings and Grace Johnson doing the Nordic side of things this winter.

• In track and field, that’s four league titles in as many years, three 4-by-8 state titles, and now 1-2 in the 1,600.

• With the 1-2 punch, the Huskies finished second at the state meet behind the Olympic track-and-field team known as Niwot. That makes the 2019 girls track team the best female squad in school history.

“That was the ultimate storybook ending for those two,” Huskies coach Rob Parish said. “They have meant so much to our program for so many years. To end it just like we drew it up was perfect.”

And to put the cherry on top, this was Battle Mountain’s first gold medal in an individual state track-and-field event since the school moved to 4A way back in 2000. The last Huskies athlete to win gold individually was Marc Churchill in the pole vault in 1998 in Class 3A.

Look at the Jumbotron

The glorious irony of the Hardings’ last individual race was that the pattern throughout their high school careers is that one of them usually has a good day, while the other is off.

The most notable example of this was the 2016 state cross-country meet when Lizzy, sick with the flu and ear infection, collapsed toward the end of the race while Naomi and then-freshman Johnson helped the team to state.

Parish felt that winning the 4-by-8 relay on Thursday helped take the pressure off, saying that the two were pretty much “playing with house money.” Who knows?

“I was wondering if we were ever going to have a race like that in our high school careers,” Naomi said. “I know that sounds funny. It was so meaningful to have my sister as my top competition.”

Battle Mountain’s Sabrina Sutter, who took third in the 200 meters on Saturday, is the first Huskies sprinter to medal at state since the school moved to 4A in 2000. (Jim Harding | Special to the Daily)

The Blairs took it out for the first two laps, with Joslin and Samantha trading the lead. Lizzy and Naomi hung back from the Blairs not far, bouncing around fourth, fifth and six places through the first 800 meters.

During the third lap, Naomi started to make a little move, but it was Lizzy turning on the jets around 1,100 meters. She took the lead, and she wasn’t giving it back.

Naomi followed into second, and the Harding-palooza in the mile was on. No one was catching Lizzy for the win, and no one was catching either Harding for the top two steps of the podium.

“With 400 (meters) to go, I saw the big screen, and I saw Naomi behind me,” Lizzy said. “I was thinking, ‘Yes, yes, yes.'”

Lizzy won the race in the third and fourth loops, posting 400s of 1:16.879 and 1:09.908, while Naomi was right behind with splits of 1:17.935 and 1:10.938.

Here’s the stat of the race: Lizzy’s 1:09 in her fourth lap was the fastest 400 of any runner in the race. She was faster in her fourth trip around the oval than either Joslin (1:10.350) or Samantha Blair was in their first (1:10.373).

That is not a slight to the Blairs, who are magnificent. The Hardings and all the Huskies have the utmost respect for the Blairs. It was just the Hardings’ day.

Oh, yeah

• On any other day, Battle Mountain’s Sabrina Sutter would be a headliner, taking third in the 200-meter finals on Saturday. The Huskies don’t have sprinters who medal.

What’s the matter with you, Sutter? The senior clocked a time of 25.01 seconds. That’s the first speed podium for the Huskies girls since Stephanie Feldhaus in the late 90s.

From left, Naomi Harding, Huskies running coach Rob Parish and Lizzy Harding celebrate a tremendous state meet for Battle Mountain which finished second in all of 4A. (Jim Harding | Special to the Daily)

• By the way, Battle Mountain had the four in Saturday’s mile. Johnson was 10th and Elliot Pribramsky 11th.

• Devils senior Miguel Castillo capped his career with fifth in the triple. Eagle Valley’s Yanitza Carbajal finished fourth in triple jump. She’s just a freshman. And Samantha Blair, also a frosh, took fifth in the 300 hurdles. Eagle Valley coach Jeff Shroll is looking forward to the next three years.

• Niwot won the 4A girls meet going away, with 123 points. Sophomore Taylor James, of Niwot, led the way with wins in the 200, 400, 800 and anchoring her 1,600 relay to victory. Battle Mountain was second, with 58 points, followed by Eagle Valley in third with 47.

Eagle Valley’s Samantha Blair bronze in 800

The Blairs are going to Blair and the Hardings are going to Harding.

Yes, to Blair and to Harding are verbs the way this 4A state meet is going.

The Hardings took Round 1 on Thursday with the 3,200-meter relay title. Give Round 2 on Friday to the Blairs.

And, to be more specific, give Round 2 to Eagle Valley’s Samantha Blair, who topped all locals in Friday’s state 800, finishing third with a time of 2 minutes, 13.54 seconds.

Not bad for a freshman.

As Devils coach Jeff Shroll put it, Friday’s 800 was a race for second. That’s no disrespect to the Blair or Harding sisters as Niwot’s Taylor James is in her own world when it come to running two laps.

James won going away with a 2:08.29, the new 4A state meet record, thank you. Steamboat Springs’ Maggi Condon was 5 seconds behind, followed by younger Blair.

Joslin Blair took fourth with a time of 2:14.44.

“That was a great strategic race on the Blairs’ part,” Shroll said. “They did a phenomenal job. They’re so coachable. They executed their plan and ran exactly with who they needed to run when to move up and it paid off for them.”

Here’s some fun trivia. Joslin Blair, junior, won her sixth state medal on Friday with fourth place. As accomplished as the older sister has been — she well on her way to being the best female runner the school has ever had between cross-country and track — Joslin did not medal as an individual as a freshman.

As a first year, she was on the 1,600 and 3,200 relays and was 14th in the open 800. Samantha took bronze on Friday in the 800.

Sorting out the school records, Samantha broke Joslin’s mark in the 800, and did so in cross-country in the fall. Joslin holds the 1,600 and the 3,200.

On Friday, Samantha also took care of business, qualifying in the 300-meter hurdles. The finals are today.

Both Blairs will be in today’s 1,600. Joslin is the defending champion. Also, Miguel Castillo and Yanitza Carbajal also compete in the triple jump.

Naomi takes 800 record

The Liberty Bell meet back in April was a bit awkward. Battle Mountain went 1-2 in the 800 with Lizzy Harding setting the new school record in the event with a time of 2:15.15 ahead of sister, Naomi.

Battle Mountain’s Naomi Harding (5) becomes the first Huskies female to break 2 minutes, 15 seconds in the 800 meters. (Special to the Daily)

The only thing was that Naomi had been going for that school record for most of her career at Battle Mountain. On Friday at state, Naomi took the school record from Lizzy with a 2:14.88. Naomi took fifth and Lizzy seventh.

Battle Mountain’s 1,600 relay team of Sofia Piliero, Sabrina Sutter and the Hardings qualified third on Friday with a time of 4 minutes-flat.

In coming attractions for Battle Mountain in state, the Hardings go in the mile today, while Sutter takes off in the 200; Max Christenberry chucks in the shot put and the 1,600 relay tries for a medal.

Vail Christian speeds to 800-meter relay title

Vail Christian’s 800-meter relay team came together quickly in more ways than one.

Meet the 2A state champs in the 4-by-2 — E.J. Koller, Kellen Kinsella, Luke Bowers, and Quinn Mitchell, who earned their title with a blistering time of 1 minute, 31.49 seconds on Friday afternoon.

And it was a sight to behold.

The Saints zipped by the Rocky Ford Meloneers (1:31.68) — one of the best mascots in Colorado high school sports — and Clear Creek (1:32.40).

Vail Christian’s girls won the 1,600 relay last spring, but this is the boys’ first relay championship since the school moved up to 2A.

“It’s huge,” a jubilant Saints coach Jen Sticksel said. “Since I’ve been coaching, we’ve been talking about winning state. Last year, we were fast, but our handoffs were not as clean as we needed them. We knew we have the talent. We just needed the handoffs to be perfect which they were today.”

Nice to meet you

The funny thing is that Vail Christian didn’t get this quartet together until last weekend at the St. Vrain Invitational. When one watches the replay of the race, it’s clear that Bower and Mitchell are the hammers.

The Saints’ Luke Bowers turns on the jets during the state 800-meter relay finals. Vail Christian’s boys won their first relay title as a 2A team. (Shelby Sticksel | Special to the Daily)

But the Saints needed to find the magical combination to start the race, and that was Koller out of the blocks and Kinsella in the second leg. in one week, the Saints went from 1:33 in the 800 to 1:31, a major drop.

If you’ve watched him play basketball or run track, Koller has the speed and the hops.

“It was the last relay we had together,” Koller said. “Everyone knew they had to go all out. Starts really matter. I was just trying to get off well in the beginning and they finished it.”

Kinsella got the baton next and he’s having one heck of a week. He got named to the U.S. Ski Team earlier this week and now he’s got a state track title.

“it’s been a crazy week,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. It’s awesome.”

With nine lanes and a staggered start, it’s hard to tell the status of the race, but the new kids on the team had done their job.

“E.J. had one of the best starts we’ve had,” Bowers said. “Kellen held it and then picked it up during the last 100 (meters). They set us up in a really good spot.”


And that’s all the Saints needed. Bowers pulled the Saints into second and Mitchell powered Vail Christian home.

Most importantly, the exchanges were superb, the result of a lot of work during the season.

Vail Christian’s E.J. Koller bursts out of the blocks, starting the Saints run to a state title in the 800-meter relay. (Shelby Sticksel | Special to the Daily)

“We spend a lot of time in the exchange zone,” Sticksel said. “You can have the four fastest boys, but if exchanges aren’t right, they aren’t going to win.”

Mitchell knew he had the lead.

“I knew the kid behind me was more of a 100(-meter) guy,” he said. “I knew I had him and we had it.”

Mitchell extended both arms as he crossed the line.

The only problem was that Vail Christian really couldn’t celebrate the win. That’s because Koller, Hayden Sticksel, Bowers, and Mitchell still had the 1,600-meter relay preliminaries — they qualified.

Meanwhile, Kinsella has busy day today. He’s in the open 100, 200 and 400 finals.

“I’m going back to the hotel to stretch, ice down, eat and go to bed,” he said.

Around the oval

• Vail Christian’s girls 800 took fourth with Lolo Wilson, Kendelle Smith, Mariana Engleby and Kiana Brasch.

• The boys’ 400 relay punched its ticket to finals. That’s P.G. Nklang’ango, Dolan, Sticksel and Mitchell.

• Smith took fourth in the 800 and Engleby was seventh.

• Blake Layman finished seventh in the pole vault, flying 8 feet, 10 inches.