Vail Christian track and field ready to make noise at state |

Vail Christian track and field ready to make noise at state

Saints go to Jeffco with big numbers

Vail Christian's Kendelle Smith, right, and Mariana Engleby return to the state meet in the medley as well as individual sprints this weekend.
Jim Harding | Daily file photo

Yes, there are three track-and-field teams in Eagle County.

Meet Vail Christian. The Saints have a large contingent headed to Jeffco Stadium, and the boys as a team could make some serious noise.

First off, the gents enter as the 2A Western Slope champions.

“It’s very exciting,” Saints coach Jen Sticksel said. “Our boys team is very deep and very talented we realize we might not have a group like this every year, so we’re not taking it for granted.”

Got relays?

While the boys are in 11 different events, if the pre-state rankings are any indication, they should shine in the relays.

The 400 is P.G. Nklang’ango, Zach Dolan, Hayden Sticksel and Quinn Mitchell, and ranked No.2 in the state. The 800 is E.J. Koller, Kellen Kinsella, Luke Bowers and Mitchell, and No. 1 in 2A. The 1,600 is Koller, Sticksel, Bowers and Mitchell, and No. 2 in Colorado. The 3,200 meters is Jose Ascencio, Keaton Brausch, Jordan Erlich and Dolan and No. 3 in the rankings.

That’s not too bad for little ol’ Vail Christian.

First off, regardless of whether it’s a parochial school, every school engages in prayer when it comes to handoffs at the state meet. That is just state-meet procedure.

Then there is the Peyton Principle. Last year, the girls 1,600-meter relay was entering state with a time of 4 minutes, 13 seconds and ranked No. 3. Conventional wisdom was that Peyton, which had logged a 4:07 was the overwhelming favorite.

Except that Peyton never came close to replicating that 4:07 at state. Meanwhile, Catherine Donoho, Kiana Brausch, Mariana Engleby and Kendelle Smith put down a 4:09 and brought home the state title.

This is a cautionary tale for the 800 team and motivation for the three other Vail Christian squads.

While Jen Sticksel — the coach — has high hopes for all of her relays, the 400-relay team returns three of four (Nklang’ango, Hayden Sticksel and Mitchell) to state after finishing second to Cedaredge last year at Jeffco.

“We feel like our boys can win the 4-by-1, the 4-by-2 and the 4-by-4, and our 4-by-8 can be in the top three,” coach Sticksel said. “But we see it every year — an OK handoff or a great handoff can make the difference. We’re hopeful.”

The 3,200 relay goes on at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, while the other three teams go into preliminaries on Thursday and Friday.

Hey, Kendelle

With Donoho injured, the Saints ladies cast aside relays and went for open distances this year. And that has Smith, a sophomore, in prime position to do some damage.

Smith is ranked third in the 200 and fourth in both the 400 and the 800. Engleby, now a junior, is also in the 400 and 800. While the 800 is a completely different animal than the sprints, both won gold in the 1,600 relay and bronze in the 4-by-2 last spring, so neither is new to Jeffco.

Vail Christian does have a medley team, and that’s Engleby, Smith LoLo Wilson and Brausch. Blake Layman is in the pole vault, and Abby Kuhns qualified in the shot put.

On the boys’ side, Kinsella’s having a heck of a week. Not only did he make the U.S. Ski Team, but he’s also in multiple state track events. Kinsella and Nklang’ango go in the 100. It’s Mitchell and Kinsella in the 200.

It’s Kinsella, Bowers and Hayden Sticksel in the 400. Ascencio and Keaton Brausch line up in the 800.

Since their good at hopping, both Koller and Zack McKeever will start in the 300 hurdles. Koller is in the long jump and McKeever will be throwing the discus.

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