Senior spotlight: Eagle Valley track and field*
The asterisk is a good one
The asterisk in sports is usually a bad thing.
The New York Yankees’ Roger Maris had one by his 61 home runs, a record for a single season because he had eight more games on the schedule than Babe Ruth. Most think there should be an asterisk by all the stats of Barry Bonds due to his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Eagle Valley track and field coach Jeff Shroll wants an asterisk by his 2020 squad, but for a good reason.
“The whole thing has an asterisk by it,” the coach said. “The athletes have a what-if. It’s not just us. It’s every track team in the country. We’re not just talking about the kids who would go to state and medal. I enjoy helping kids run a little faster each week. That’s the main reason I coach.”
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With the stipulation that greater issues are confronting the nation, sunny days like Tuesday are the hardest during the time of COVID-19. This kind of day is the reward for all the practices in the rain/snow/wind/hail. This week would be the league meet, and Eagle Valley would be plotting fiendishly to deploy its athletes in every combination possible to capture the crown.
Imagine Joslin Blair in the 100 meters. (Wouldn’t bet against her.) How about Samantha Blair in the pole vault? (Maybe not, even for her, but?)
Eighteen is small?
Eagle Valley track and field’s Class of 2020 numbers 18, which seems like a huge number.
“We had 40 last year,” Shroll said. “This is a light year.”
While the coach is correct mathematically, it doesn’t make this any easier.
Raul Baltierrez, Joslin Blair, Holden Daniels, Donovan Escobar, Andrea Grewe, Gil Hernandez, Aldo Holguin, Justin Hoppin, Maricella Lopez, Amy Macias, Charlie Mays, Johan Payan, Armando Reyes, Jewel Scrivens, Matt Turner, Junior Villareal, and Skylar Williams were all set to run, jump and hurdle their way into their senior seasons.
While track and field is one of the most unpredictable sports out there — the Devils’ Brad Gamble clipped a hurdle at state his senior year — it was not hard to see Eagle Valley having quite the presence at Jeffco Stadium later this month.
Daniels was second last spring in the pole vault, going 15 feet, 3 inches. He and Silver Creek’s Hunter Potrykus were set to duel all over again in a few weeks. The state meet record was sitting there at 15-8.
“He had a legitimate shot at state at a gold or a silver,” Shroll said. “He’s the king of what I call the cult of pole vaulting. Whether it’s rain, snow, wind or shine, he finds a way to vault. I shudder to think of all the pole vault pits and recesses we don’t know.”
In the high jump, Turner was coming off an injury that sidelined him for most of last spring only to have his senior season wiped away. (Insert your exclamation of frustration here.)
Turner went 6 feet, 3 inches his sophomore year. Not that we’re looking, but 6-5 was golden last spring.
The girls’ 3,200-meter relay had to be a contender. (Yes, we’re sounding like Marlon Brando.) Of course, archrival Battle Mountain, the three-time state champion, was the favorite until proven otherwise. But Eagle Valley was returning both Blairs and Scrivens from a second-place finish at state, while the Huskies had to replace their version of the “The Super Sisters,” Lizzy and Naomi Harding.
We could spend the summer debating the 4-by-8.
And then there are the surprises. Athletes have a way of coming into their own, especially during their senior years. One candidate for such an emergence was Hoppin. First, it must be acknowledged that Hoppin is a tremendous name for a jumper. Second, well, Shroll watched some basketball this winter.
“I just witnessed a different kid on the basketball court this year,” Schroll said. “He had a different confidence and got filled out and strong. I was sitting next to his mom and saying, ‘This kid is going to jump for us.’”
And, of course, there are the Blair sisters.
All Samantha did as a fresh-person at state was medal in all four events she entered — the 800, the 1,600, the 300 hurdles and the 3,200 relay. One can only imagine her sophomore encore. Happily, she has two more years to dazzle.
It’s heartbreaking, though, that Joslin does not get a curtain call for her senior year. With eight medals in three state meets including gold in the 1,600 in 2018, she is the GOAT of all Eagle Valley runners, certainly since the school moved up to 4A in 2004. (Oh, by the way, she also put Devils cross-country on the map in the fall.)
Just as with arguments about Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley and the 3,200 relay, the debate could rage about her being the best runner, full stop, in school history, against the likes of Brad and Chris Gamble, Sean Matheson and Kim Smith, just to name a few Devils legends.
If track athletes had assigned numbers, Joslin’s would be automatically retired.
Shroll obviously thinks the world of Blair’s athletic accomplishments, but there’s more.
“Eagle Valley has had so many great athletes, Sean, Brad, Chris — I can name a whole bunch — but they were also great people,” Shroll said. “Joslin fits that category. She’s an academic all-star. She’s a top-notch kid. Her work ethic is, ‘Give me more, Coach. I can take it.’ She’s a role model.”
Blair will “Anchor Down” this fall at Vanderbilt.
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After a sudden stop in March and extended isolation, people may be ready to travel or play. But don’t expect a full-throttle return this summer.