2022 State track preview: Battle Mountain
Field events lead deepest team in history
Historically, Battle Mountain has relied on the depth of its distance program to contend for team track and field titles. Heading into Thursday’s 2022 iteration of the 4A meet at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood, however, the field has as many showstoppers as the track.
“Most track teams have one or two studs who, everybody stops what they’re doing when they compete,” coach Rob Parish said, setting up a punchline.
“Everyone runs over to the pole vault, everyone stops and watches the high jump — this team has six or seven of those.”
Don’t be mistaken — Parish has raised his usual stable of horses for the 800, 1600, 3200-meter runs and 4×800-meter relay. The best chances for a state title, however, might just be in the jumps and throws.
“I think the development over the last 20 years — we’ve had some great runners — to have these three standout field event athletes has been really fun,” Parish said of T.J. Nixon (No. 2 high jump), Augustine Hancock (No. 4 discus and No. 8 shot put) and Roshawn Reid (No. 10 triple jump). Add in Patrick Friery (No. 7 pole vault), and you can see why the coach is excited with the direction of the program.
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“It adds to the camaraderie of the team,” he said.
“The hope is that it kind of sets fire at this school that you can do Battle Mountain track and field even if you’re not a distance runner.”
It’s also elevated the team’s performances. For the first time ever, both boys and girls won the team title at the league meet, scoring in every event — a feat made much more difficult by the fact that only the top six scored this year (instead of the top eight). For the girls, it was their 10th in the last 12 years and seventh in a row this year.
“By far and away, this is the best combined girls and boys track and field team,” Parish said.
“They really strike a great balance between working hard when it’s time and having fun the other 95% of the time. They do a great job of having fun. I think they really enjoy each other’s company.”
Faster, higher, stronger
Hancock and Nixon are the highest-seeded individuals headed to Lakewood this weekend.
“That’s given us such balance. They’re good enough to win meets on the Front Range at these big meets,” said Parish.
Hancock placed second in 2021 in the discus and podiumed in the shot put as well. Giavonna Meeks of Northfield is over 30 feet ahead of the second best mark in 4A this year, but Hancock should still score significant points for the Huskies.
Nixon jumped 6 feet, 6 inches this year, an inch off of a 47-year-old school record. Cheyenne Mountain’s Antoni Smith’s 6-9 is the only higher mark. In an event where jumping clean can make a huge difference in placing, Nixon’s cool composure and consistent jumping bodes well.
“It can be a fickle event being so technical, but he’s pretty consistent with his jumping,” said Parish.
Roshawn Reid, a multi-faceted sprint and jump star, should benefit from a week of just focusing on the triple jump, the only event he qualified for this weekend.
“He was doing so many things well, he was pulled in so many different directions; he’ll be able to just buckle down,” said Parish.
Patrick Friery is one of three Valley pole vaulters at state. Parish believes the senior has a good shot at a podium (top nine). Freshman Tyler Heimerl rounds out the field events in the girls high jump.
No analysis of the Huskies is complete without looking at the latest cogs in the distance machine. The headliner is senior Sullivan Middaugh, who broke the quintessential track record a week ago, running 4:19.97 in the 1600-meter run.
“His mile was obviously really special,” Parish said. Across the board, Parish added “the young guns have been pushing their coaches off the top-10 lists.”
Even though his time is four seconds clear of the next best Husky in history, Middaugh is seeded 15th, a testament to the generational depth in 4A on the distance side.
“It’s absolutely unheard of,” remarked Parish.
Niwot’s Zane Bergen has the top 1600 mark at 4:08.54 and also the top 800-meter time (1:50.01). In addition, Cheyenne Mountain, the No. 2 ranked cross-country team in the nation this fall, has four athletes in both the 1600 and 3200. Both Niwot and Cheyenne Mountain are expected to duke things out in the 4×800, where the Huskies lurk as a major darkhorse as the sixth seed.
The team of Sullivan and Porter Middaugh, Will Brunner and Jorge Sinaloa — a “mid-distance stud” and gritty runner whom Parish said has earned everything he’s accomplished this fall and spring — is rounding into form. Winning, however, will be a tall task.
Cheyenne Mountain ran 7:47 earlier this year, just three seconds away from the all-time state mark. The question is whether or not any matches remain in the holster. Last Friday at St. Vrain, they appeared ragged and only managed an 8:12. Meanwhile, the perfectly peaking Huskies are salivating.
“Honestly, our guys look amazing,” Parish, who has been impressed with the late-season speed sessions, remarked.
Both Middaugh brothers snuck into the 3200, where their seed times may shortchange their current fitness. Parish believes the school’s altitude record of 9:32 is in jeopardy.
“I think it’s realistic for them to shoot for the podium.”
The Battle Mountain girls 4×800 is ranked third, but has another 15 seconds it could easily shave off of its 9:45 seed time. Milaina Almonte, Presley Smith, Lindsey Kiehl and Lindsey Whitton all have the capability to approach or break 2:20, according to the coach.
“They’re trending in the right direction,” said Parish, who noted that in most years, this team’s talent would be sufficient to win the event, one Battle Mountain took three years in a row from 2017-19.
Almonte will also run the 1600 and 3200.
“Milaina is running out of her mind,” the coach complimented.
“She went from not really liking track two years ago to being in four events; and a strong possibility of podiuming in four events.”
The junior’s shocking rise is evidence of the program’s nuanced training approach.
“The differentiation and small adjustments that you make day-to-day and athlete-by-athlete — I think that’s one of the things that sets our program apart,” Parish elaborated.
“We’re not a one-size-fits-all, so we’ll really tailor the training to the individual needs, wants, motivation, injury history and making those micro-adjustments.”
Presley Smith is seeded seventh in the open 400-meter dash and recently ran under 60-seconds for the first time in her career. Her 59.09 is the fastest electronically timed quarter-mile in school history. The toughest barrier for Smith will be her race load.
“She’s got a lot of stuff to do, particularly on Thursday,” said Parish, noting the sophomore’s slate of sprint medley, 4×800 and finally, the 400 prelim. Smith, Kiehl and Almonte will team up with freshman Kiki Hancock for the 4×400-meter relay as well.
“A lot of times, those pure sprinters, at the end of the season when they’ve raced a lot of 200s, they can smash that 400, and she’s in that boat,” Parish said of Hancock.
“So, that makes that team pretty lethal; it’s a late-season, supercharged relay.”
Parish will be busy trying to keep track of his 11 individuals and four relays, though he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think that’s been one of the greatest parts of this team is that there are standouts all over.”