Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley ready for state meet | VailDaily.com

Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley ready for state meet

Blairs, Hardings and Jeffco, oh my

From left, Naomi Harding, Gabby Trueblood, Alex Raichart and Lizzy Harding celebrate back-to-back state titles in the 4A 3,200 relay last year. This year it's the Hardings, Elliot Pribramsky and Grace Johnson going for a three-peat.
Jim Harding | Daily file photo

Will the showdowns materialize at Jeffco Stadium at the state track and field meet?

Approaching last year’s state meet, it looked like we were going to have Battle Mountain-Eagle Valley, Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain, Eagle Mountain-Battle Valley showdowns.

Eagle Valley’s Joslin Blair was No. 1-ranked in the 1,600 meters, with Lizzy and Naomi Harding Nos. 2-3. Blair won the state title in the mile, but the Blair-Hardings showdown never materialized.

In the boys’ pole vault, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley entered with the top four athletes in the state. the Huskies Wyatt Nelson ended up fourth as the highest local finisher.

So as the state meet kicks off on Thursday with the open 3,200 meters followed by the 3,200 relay, marquee events and we start sizing up the plural Blairs (with freshman Samantha) and the Hardings and all things Huskies, Devils, keep in mind that this is the state meet.

As hyperlocal as we think — and the thinking was and still is justifiable in the 1,600 — other great athletes compete at Jeffco Stadium. Strange things happen at state, be it an off day by an athlete, a bad relay exchange or surprise out of nowhere. Nonetheless, get ready, folks.

The 3,200 and the 3,200

OK, which local girls’ track team has the fastest 3,200 relay time?

Eagle Valley, yes, Eagle Valley at 9 minutes, 43.97 seconds. That’s the Blairs, Avery Doan, and Jewel Scrivens. The Devils are ranked third in the state behind Durango (9:36.72) and Niwot (9:41.95) and followed by Battle Mountain, the two-time defending 4A state champions (9:47.18).

So do the Hardings, Elliot Pribramsky and Grace Johnson make it a three-peat? Do the Devils unset the Huskies?

Two important factors are involved here. First, all four of the contenders posted their qualifying times a while ago. Durango ran its time at the Liberty Bell at the end of April, and the Demons are the most recent to have their four runners together.

Niwot, a perennial rival of the Huskies in the fall or the spring, put up its time at the Pomona Invitational on April 13. The Devils posted their time at the Eagle Valley Invite on April 6, while the Huskies had their 9:47 at Broomfield back in March.

The Huskies won in 2018 with 9:16.13 and in 2017 with 9:24.34. Battle Mountain coach Rob Parish said that he thinks the winning time is going to have to be lower than 9:20. The qualifying times aren’t close to what’s going to be run on Thursday at 10:25 a.m.

And speaking of 10:25 a.m., the 3,200 relay isn’t the only event happening Thursday morning. At 8:45 a.m., the open 3,200 starts, which means that Joslin Blair for Eagle Valley and Pribramsky and Johnson for Battle Mountain will be running an eight-lap race and coming back 100 minutes later for the 4-by-8. How will they do it?

“If I run the 3,200, please don’t talk to me for three days,” Devils coach Jeff Shroll said. “(Joslin)’s a special kid. Quite frankly that kind of workout, I won’t call it easy, but she’s trained for it. She has all the right tools to cool down and get mentally prepared. State also brings out the adrenaline.”

“I think we will achieve our goal entering with a shot of being one of the elite teams,” Parish said. “Eagle Valley, Durango and Niwot are tremendous.”

That is what we call an evasive answer, people.

The sisters

While neither coach was going to disclose his 3,200 relay lineup, it is not a leap of the imagination to see Lizzy and Naomi Harding and Samantha and Joslin Blair running the third and fourth legs for their teams.

This is the first of three head-to-head matchups of the sisters, who are making for a golden age of running in Eagle County.

The Hardings are seniors and there is little they have not accomplished. Lizzie and Naomi are the bridge between the past generations (Val and Liz Constien and Alex Raichart, to name a few) and the future (Johnson and Pribrimasky) of Battle Mountain distance running. Let’s face it, at any other school, Johnson and Pribramsky would already be headliners because they are that good right now.

Yet the Hardings have eight regional cross-country championships, two state cross-country titles, two runner-up finishes in cross-country, a state skiing title, four league track and field titles, two state titles in 4-by-8, and a partridge in a pear tree.

And that brings us to Saturday’s 1,600 meters. First off, Niwot’s Taylor James isn’t running. The Hardings and Blairs both like this because James has recorded the only sub-5-minute mile at altitude this spring.

Eagle Valley’s Joslin Blair (1) takes the pack out during the 2017 4A state 1,600-meter race with Battle Mountain’s Lizzy Harding (2) in tow. Blair went on to win the state title. (Daily file photo)
Jim Harding | Daily file photo

Niwot’s Samarawit Dishon, Joslin, Samantha, Durango’s Madeleine Burns, Lizzy and Naomi make up the top six times in the state mile and are between 5:01.19 and 5:03.81.

This illustrates why Niwot is the favorite to win the girls’ team title as the school doesn’t enter an athlete with a 4:59.35, and still has the lead miler in the field. More importantly, this shows how good the pair of Eagle County sisters are. The seventh-ranked miler at state is Green Mountain’s Kasey Klocek, who is 5 seconds behind this pack.

The sisters will also meet in the 800 on Friday. In that race, Niwot’s James is the favorite with a 2:10.68, followed by Green Mountain’s Klocek (2:15.04), followed by Lizzie, Samantha, Naomi, Steamboat Springs’ Maggi Condon and Joslin.

The Hardings and Joslin are known quantities, while one keeps waiting for Samantha to act like a freshman in one of these big moments. While entering the Texas Relays and the Kansas Relays this spring doubtless helped Joslin in her college-recruiting profile, it also showed that Samantha wasn’t an average frosh.

Joslin and Samantha went 1-2 in the 1,600 at KU with sub-5 miles.

“Samantha’s been running varsity times since the sixth grade,” Shroll said.

If one goes to milesplit.com, one will see that Samantha is ahead of Joslin’s times as a freshman in the fall in cross-country and in the 800 and the 1,600 in the spring. And, by the way, Samantha is also seeded No. 7th in the 300 hurdles this weekend.

More state contenders

Since the sisters have the power to eclipse about everything and everyone else, let’s note that are other state-title contenders.

• Silver Creek’s Hunter Potrykus leads the state in pole vault with a leap of 15 feet, 3 inches. Eagle Valley’s Holden Daniels (14-7), Oliver White and Ethan Daubs (14-6) are Nos. 2-4 in the state. No. 5? That’s Battle Mountain’s Wyatt Nelson (14-4), tied with Steamboat’s Eric Casey.

• Eagle Valley’s Miguel Castillo is seeded No. 4 in the long jump. Shroll just seemed quietly confident about Castillo, and this isn’t the coach’s first rodeo.

• Speaking about quiet confidence, Parish feels that way about his girls 1,600 team of the Hardings, Sofia Piliero and Sabrina Sutter.