Devils seniors set for final hurrah
GYPSUM – The four seniors on the Eagle Valley girls track team have a long weekend ahead of them.Heather Mann, Jessica Medsker, Kenzie Shreeve and Jessica Stiles head to Denver today for the 4A state track meet at Legacy Stadium.Depending on how they fare in prelims, all three could wind up in the finals Saturday. On Sunday, the four have an important date with their high school diplomas at Hot Stuff Stadium in Gypsum at 12:30 p.m.Says Medsker, the valedictorian of this year’s senior class, “I think it makes it tougher to have everything packed in. But, it will be fun.”Fun, more than any other adjective, is the obvious choice when it comes to describing this group.The Devils seniors like to have fun like raccoons like digging into trash cans.It’s a big reason for the team’s success this season – its first in 4A.”The fun factor is huge,” Mann says. “That’s one of the things I’ve really learned in the last two years is to enjoy myself. You take your mind off the pressure and it makes it more enjoyable.” Last Saturday at regionals in Grand Junction, the Devils – enjoying themselves the whole time – walked away with the title with 125 team points, 37 ahead of runner-up, Steamboat Springs.Mann finished third in the 400, setting a school record with a time of 59.93 seconds. She also qualified for state in the medley relay, posting a first-place time of 1:54.18 with teammates Hattie Higgins, Rachel Sandoval and Ashley Rohweder.Shreeve qualified individually in the high jump Friday, clearing the bar at 5 feet to finish second. She then teamed up with Medsker, Stiles and freshman Sasha Picksley Saturday in the 3,200 relay for a third-place time of 10:24.90.
The team title came as a surprise to most everyone, except the Lady Devils themselves. Despite the talented group of senior leaders, the rest of the regional field wasn’t sizing up Eagle Valley as a contender because the Devils were freshmen at the 4A level. Says coach Jeff Shroll, “We weren’t favored going in there, and we knew that. But, we beat girls teams that have been in 4A for years. They were twice as big as us, team-wise. I think these kids do great at motivating each other and rising to the occasion at the right time.”The finish line Mann, Medsker, Shreeve and Stiles will be cherishing every single minute of their final state meet together. There will be shared tears to go with the usual shared laughs. Then it’s on to Sunday, where they will celebrate their completion of four years of high school. When asked, Medsker says she’s not going to talk about track in her valedictorian address. Her teammates already know, she says, how she feels about the group and the special bond they share.”Just hopefully we can bring it all together and do our best this weekend,” she says. “I think we really like to compete a lot, but we make sure to have fun. Our team is just so close that we’re always going to cheer each other on and root each other on.”Shreeve says, more than anything, that her bonds with her teammates are what kept her going out for the track team each spring. Next fall she’s headed to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley on a volleyball scholarship. It will be the first time in four years that she won’t play basketball in the winter and run and jump in the spring – an actuality that will be tough to stomach after this weekend.
“We all got really close during track,” she says. “It will be hard when it’s over. I do it a lot because of the friendships I’ve made on the team. And, it keeps me in shape for my other sports.”Adds Stiles, “I think it will be emotional after we do our 4-by-8, because we’re all in it together. That’s the only race that me and Jessica are in. We get nervous at state, but it’s also more fun because we’ve raced as far as you can go.”Different flavorsShroll says each one of his seniors plays a different role on the team.It’s a toss-up, he says, between Medsker and Mann for the title of hardest worker. As for the crown of cerebral all-star, Medsker just edges out Mann in a photo finish. Mann is only three spots behind the valedictorian in class rank.Shreeve is the most talented athlete of the group, and the quietest.An apt moniker would be the shy star. “She’s kind of like the Sean Matheson of the girls team,” says Shroll. “Doesn’t say too much. She’s the kind of person who just does things and then turns around and doesn’t think about it. When she cleared 5-2, her personal best at Rifle, there were no coaches there. She just went out and did it and didn’t think about it. She’s so coachable. She just picks it up because she’s such a good athlete.”Stiles prides herself on being a solid team player on the 3,200 relay team. She played a similar role as a starter on the Devils volleyball team in the fall.”You’ve got to have four spokes in a four-person relay, and she’s the right person to have in there,” Shroll says.
One last shotMann says she’s already reached her personal goal for the season, breaking the school record and running in fewer than 60 seconds in the 400. She says this weekend’s meet is just one more opportunity to strive for a personal best.Shreeve, Stiles and Medsker all agreed, too, that a personal best is the objective for this weekend. “There’s definitely a whole new level of competition this year compared to last year,” Medsker says. “If we run hard and get a P.R., we’ll all be happy.”The other priority: Have fun and take it all in.”Track is temporary,” Shroll says. “How you do things and live life, you’ve got have fun. We want that. I want my kids to have fun. And that’s what’s good about my seniors. Hey, they can screw off with the best of them and have a great time, but when it comes down to business, they’re all business and they’re good about that.”Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.