Last chance: Eagle Valley boys 4×400 team goes from unqualified to eighth at state meet |

Last chance: Eagle Valley boys 4×400 team goes from unqualified to eighth at state meet

After a poor showing and injury at the St. Vrain Invite on May 12, Eagle Valley went to Berthoud the next day and ran five seconds faster to get into 18-team field

The Eagle Valley boys 4x400 team accepts their eighth-place award at the 4A state track and field meet in Lakewood.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

High school track meets can get long, but waiting around until the final event is a surefire way to witness its most dramatic storylines.

The Eagle Valley boys 4×400 team, made up of three event rookies and a distance runner, know all about the intoxicating rush of chilling for nine hours and then going all-out for a lap in front of screaming fans — with team titles on the line.

“The environment is crazy,” said junior Kaden Kraft, who came out for track for the first time this season and proceeded to dominate the 100 and 200 in winning the Western Slope League athlete of the year award.

Kaden Kraft anchors the 4×400-meter relay at Jeffco Stadium on Saturday.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“I’ve never experienced that before — just like watching everybody stand up and cheer and being the anchor when it’s close sometimes. People were just getting rowdy — it’s something else.”

As Lutheran, Northfield and Niwot — each separated by a point in the team scoring after the final event — raced under pressure for the glory of a title, a la the 2017 University of Oregon women, the Devils squad was grateful just to be lacing their spikes up in the first place.

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Back on May 12, Kraft, Jonathan Boyer, Drever and Devils’ sprint veteran Brody Nielsen showed up at the notoriously fast St. Vrain Invitational, hoping to sneak into the top-18 state qualifiers. Not only did they run poorly, by their own admission — 3:33.77 for 17th place — but Nielsen, the only guy other than Drever with state meet experience, went down with an injury.

The team had registered for the following day’s Berthoud Last Chance meet — appropriately named, as it falls five days before the start of the state track meet — but were, to be frank, ready to throw in the towel on the 2023 campaign.

“We were not feeling it that Friday night,” said Jonathan Boyer, a two-time state golfer who has been a lean-and-mean 100, 200 and 400 guy in his first track season.

Jonathan Boyer came out for track for the first time during his senior spring season. The all-state golfer is headed to Grand Canyon University next fall.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“I think most of us were leaning towards the not-go side, but like coach (Myriah) Blair said, you don’t want to ever have regrets about not doing it…and praise the Lord here we are.”

“So then we’re thinking oh we should try the next day, but since Brody was out, like, we didn’t know who should be in,” recalled Kevin Hasley. Hasley, who just missed qualifying in the 100 and 300 hurdles, two events he swept at the league championships, got the call at Drever’s suggestion. The next morning, he would run his second 400 ever.

“It was brutal, but we made it through,” Hasley said. All because they stuck around and waited until the end of a meet for the second-straight day.

“We stayed the night, woke up, waited the whole day again, ran it and ran that 3:28 to get in,” Kraft regaled.

A noteworthy anecdote: the Devils ran their season-best 3:28.35 in essentially a solo effort. The second-place Summit Tigers relay crossed the line in 3:33.37. It was something they could hang their collective hats on, but the Devils were just getting started.

In Friday’s prelim, Eagle Valley popped a 3:26.88, the seventh-best in the field, earning a lucky-loser qualifying spot in the final. It meant one more chance to chill in the tent all day with the boys, whose apparent closeness isn’t a facade.

“We roomed together, we’re friends at school and everything,” Hasley said. “It’s nice running with people you’re close with. You can trust them.”

After Saturday’s final, where Boyer brought the team from last place into sixth en route to an eventual eighth-place finish and 3:26.58 season-best, Kraft said of Boyer, “It’s been such a blessing having this guy beside me and us being first-year track guys, it’s amazing that we’re just here and we left it all out here, so no regrets at all.”

“I am so proud of the 4×400 boys,” coach Jeff Shroll stated. “Most of them had never run it before and to step up they way they did was extraordinary. When they get locked in the zone, they are fun to watch!”

Kraft and Hasley have another year left, and they plan on making a return to state, though preferably in some events that don’t require them to wait until Saturday night to run.

“I really enjoyed the positive energy in track and coming out this year with all these guys has just been a blast,” said Kevin Hasley, who is a 100 and 300-meter hurdle specialist.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“I mean, it totally motivated me,” said Hasley, who walked away from lacrosse, a sport his older brother was a star in, because he enjoyed the culture of the track squad. “Every time I walked out of the tent and seeing this place full to the brim…and seeing the times in the prelim in the 300 hurdles, I was like, I can touch that. This offseason I’m going to work my butt off and like try to get in for sure.”

Even though he has a love-hate relationship with the one-lap suffer fest, Kraft knows the 400 might be his best shot at a school record and individual state qualifier.

“We were talking about that today — our school record,” he said.

“And I was like, maybe I’ll go for it.”

Jake Drever ran the 3200, 1600 and 800-meter individual events before closing out the week with the 4×400, the highest workload of anyone at the entire meet.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

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