Huskies 3,200 relay strikes gold at state meet | VailDaily.com

Huskies 3,200 relay strikes gold at state meet

From left, Battle Mountain's Alex Raichart,Lizzie Harding, Sofia Piliero and Naomi Harding celebrate their state title in the Class 4A 3,200-meter relay on Saturday at Lakewood's Jeffco Stadium. It's the first state track title for Battle Mountain since the boys 3,200 team won in 2008.

LAKEWOOD — Battle Mountain's girls 3,200-meter relay team started Saturday six seconds behind Durango at the 4A state meet.

By the end of the day, the Huskies finished five seconds ahead of the Demons on their way to a state title.

Lizzie Harding, Sofia Pilero, Alex Raichart and Naomi Harding laid down a new school-record, but, more importantly, a state-winning time of nine minutes, 24.34 seconds — Durango had the best 4A time in the state to date at 9:30.31 — to close out Day 1 of the state meet at Lakewood Jeffco Stadium.

"We were all so happy, and little bit in a state of shock," said Piliero, who started the race for the Huskies. "It was such a team effort. It's so exciting to be a part of that."

The last Battle Mountain state track champion was the boys' 3,200 relay of Tony Crisofulli, Connor Tedstrom, Jonny Stevens and Jon O'Neill in 2008.

"Yeah but those guys were a bunch of scrubs," Stevens tweeted after Saturday's race. "Whoop whoop! Way to go ladies!"

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The current quartet has a bit of pedigree of its own. All four were on the school's state title cross-country team last fall. And that makes for a very happy and proud coach.

"It's been thrilling," Rob Parish said. "We knew this team had the potential to be strong. We did it by committee. We had Grace Johnson down (at state) as an alternate. We had Liz Constien, who's the second best cross-country runner in the state. But what is really cool is that all of the girls are excited for each other."

Taking the punch

A sophomore, Piliero might not have been the first choice to run the opening leg. By experience, that would have been Constien, who had qualified for the 3,200-meter individual race. When the state meet started as a three-day affair before the snow hit, the open 3,200 meters and the 3,200 relay were scheduled only two hours apart.

After snow condensed the schedule, the gap between the open 3,200 and 4-by-8 relay expanded to five hours. Parish never hesitated. Piliero was still running the opening leg, and the sophomore validated her coach's faith in her.

"She was, as Parish said, to take the punch and keep us up there," Raichart said.

Piliero was a bit nervous starting this race.

"Oh my goodness, I was nervous," she said. "But I had my plan and I did my part."

With 18 teams starting, including Eagle Valley who finished fifth, a front pack was going to go out and separate itself. Piliero ran her split 2:24, and the Huskies were in that front pack.

And, by the way, Constien ended up rocking the open 3,200 five hours earlier with a 11:18.87, good for seventh and a new school record.

Raichart takes the lead

Raichart's job was to stay with the pack in her first of two laps and then make a move in her second loop.

"I was pretty happy with (Pilero's leg)," Raichart said. "It's definitely easier for me running with people, and catching them until I was ready to go for the (lead). I was confident I could get Lizzie into a good position."

And it's hard to think of a better person to do that, given Raichart's year running. She has been as steady as a rock for the Huskies, be it cross-country or track.

Raichart's opportunity came in the last 50 meters of her leg. Coming out of the turn, and into the exchange area, she surged into the top spot, a position the Huskies would not relinquish.

Meet the Hardings

Lizzie and Naomi Harding made the final mile of the race a victory lap, or four to be precise.

Lizzie took the lead from Raichart and expanded it. The Huskies were leading by 15 meters by the time Naomi got the baton, and she pretty much ran up the score on the rest of the field.

This was a reward for the Harding sisters who've had themselves quite a year. It started with Naomi getting hurt while riding her bike last summer. Naomi appeared to be out for the cross-country season in what seemed like a devastating blow to the team's chances of a state title during the fall.

While Lizzie held down the fort in cross-country for the family, Naomi rehabbed and made it back to varsity to run in one regular season competition, regionals and state.

Of course, then, Lizzie got sick before the state meet, ran anyway and collapsed in a heap near the finish last October.

So Lizzie Harding wasn't letting anything stop her on Saturday, even competing in the open 3,200 five hours before.

"I was very confident in Lizzie," Raichart said. "I knew she was not going to let any pass her. That's her attitude."

Harding logged a 2:22 split, which is amazing given she'd run the two-mile earlier in the day, and Harding handed off to Harding.

"It's so awesome. We train together every day," Lizzy said of Naomi. "It's an experience to hand off the baton in such a cool race like this."

Such as her sister, Naomi doesn't give up leads either. She could have taken it easy and enjoyed it, but she had a different approach.

"I didn't feel like I was running alone,: Naomi said. "I ran like someone was right behind me."

And that led to a team-best 2:16 split. Battle Mountain beat Durango by five seconds.

More to come

"The race broke pretty much the way we thought it would," Parish said. "The only thing that worked out better was Lizzie was stronger than expected."

After the race, Lizzie Harding candidly said, "I'm pretty much wrecked," about the strain of running in both the open and 3,200 relay races.

Saturday night was doubtless a night of recuperation. Naomi Harding runs in the 1,600, the 800 and the 1,600 relay today. Lizzie's back in the 1,600, and most of the crew reassembles for the 4-by-4.

But there was still a little celebration.

"State titles don't come around too often," Parish said.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.

State meet results

Class 4A

Girls

Medley — Battle Mountain, disqualified (Sabrina Sutter, Sofia Piliero, Gabby Trueblood, Cassi Kelchner).

3,200 — 7. Elizabeth Constien, Battle Mountain, 11:18.87; 11. Lizzie Harding, Battle Mountain, 11:26.33.

3,200 relay — 1. Battle Mountain, 9:24.34; 5. Eagle Valley (Taylor Hermosillo, Avery Doan, Maddie Schenk and Jsolin Blair).

200 — 8. Sabrina Sutter, Battle Mountain, 25.90

Discus — 16. Cassie Jaramillo, Eagle Valley, 103-3.

Boys

300 hurdles — 12. Harrison Trotter, Eagle Valley, 40.92.

3,200 relay — 12. Battle Mountain, 8:14.99 (Alexis Aguirre, Douglas McMurrain, Franklin Reilly, James Moran); 18. Eagle Valley, 8:46.77 (Bailey Scrivens, John Long, Luke Jeffers, Aiden Branch).

Pole vault — 9. Holden Daniels, Eagle Valley, 13; T10. Ethan Daubs and Joseph White, Eagle Valley, 12-6; Trever LaFramboise, Eagle Valley, and Wyatt Nelson, Battle Mountain, no height.

Discus — 13. Max Christenberry, Battle Mountain, 140-4.

Class 2A

Girls

Pole vault — T8. Blake Layman, Vail Christian