Devils track makes last push to state |

Devils track makes last push to state

Ryan Slabaugh

For the rest of the Eagle Valley track and field team though, it’s serious business.

The Devils will be trying to qualify four relays Friday and Saturday at Mesa State University, as well as a whole roster of individual athletes for the state meet in Pueblo May 17-18. The runners or throwers must finish in the top four to earn automatic bids.

“We have some freshmen really picking up the slack,” coach Emily Large said. “They’ve filled spots we haven’t had before. The touchy thing is, we have such a solid group of seniors too.”

One of those seniors is Gamble, who has qualified in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, as well as the triple jump and the senior-laden 800 relay, which also includes Jay Miller, Wes Griffith and Mike Ray. The team holds the school record, one they’ve broken numerous times.

Miller, Griffith and Ray will join Kyle Higgins, another senior, on the 400 relay that missed qualifying last weekend because of a dropped baton. Griffith is close to qualifying in the 400, while Ray is just 0.02 seconds off the qualifying time for the 200.

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Smith, meanwhile, ran the 400 last weekend for fun and ended up with a qualifying spot. The junior’s also running in the 800 medley, the 800 and the mile at state.

“She knew she was close to the time, because she runs that heat in the medley,” Large said. “So she ran it and got it. It was fun to watch.”

Junior Katie Wick, senior Shelby Vernell and junior Laura Sandoval round out the medley team that’s also nearing a school record. Sandoval is a favorite to qualify in the 200 this weekend, while Wick and Vernell join freshman Heather Mann and sophomore Ellie Comerford on a 400 relay team that’s also knocking on the door.

Higgins is closing in on a state berth in discus, while Shaun Baldwin and Brad Gamble are going for state bids in the long jump.

One of the outstanding freshman this season for Large and company has been Jessie Stiles. Stiles is ranked sixth in the state in the 300 hurdles, but has yet to qualify in the event.

“We’ll see how she does,” Large said. “She really hasn’t seen too much real competition. She’s just a talent we’re excited to have on this team.”

Brad Gamble is just 0.04 seconds off the 300 hurdles qualifying time, while the boys 1,600 relay (Damion Blackwell, Griffith, Alex Gamble and Ray), will be gunning for another spot.

With the number of Devils on the bubble for the state tournament, this weekend will determine whether Eagle Valley travels to state in a pair of suburbans, or a big yellow bus.

“There’s six seniors on the team,” Large said. “We’d love to have them all at state.”

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