Battle Mountain’s Lizzie and Naomi go 1-2 in 1,600
Huskies finish second at state; Devils third.
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.
“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.”
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.
• 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.
• 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.
There Marco Odermatt was, in the Birds of Prey finish corral following his gutsy super-G run, wondering just how fast he was. As the second skier on course, and the first to finish, the confusion was understandable.