Sullivan Middaugh runs stunning 3200-meter as state track meet resumes
Husky runs 9:15.50 3200-meter after Friday events canceled due to weather
Last week, Battle Mountain coach Rob Parish said his distance runners were fit enough to hit their sea-level 3200-meter times from April if they got in a fast race at this weekend’s state meet. That being said, the weather-induced one day postponement served Sullivan Middaugh, one of his program’s finest distance runners, particularly well.
Instead of racing in Friday’s blizzard, negligible winds and 46 degree, partly cloudy day greeted athletes Saturday morning at Jeffco Stadium for the second day of competition at the Colorado state track meet. Middaugh churned out the best 3200-meter race of his life — and possibly the greatest in Battle Mountain history — clocking in at 9 minutes, 15.50 seconds to place ninth in the 4A boys eight-lap race.
“Definitely one of the best track races I’ve ever had,” an exuberant Middaugh said.
“For someone like Sully, who is so meticulous in his preparation and takes downtime seriously, the day off probably helped him, too,” said Parish, who, along with the senior, were shocked in the scoreboard’s final population of times.
“We knew and he knew he was ready to run fast — when they just hit it out of the park at Arcadia, it’s hard to get all the way back there,” Parish explained.
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“I was very surprised by the time because I felt very comfortable for the first half of the race,” Middaugh said with a humble, calculated tone.
He finished 1.47 seconds off the all-time school record, set by younger brother Porter Middaugh this April at the Arcadia Invitational, a sea-level race. Saturday’s altitude time converts to 8:56.
“For a guy, it was our best track distance race ever — for sure — by any quantifier,” Parish said.
The previous best altitude 3200-meter at Battle Mountain was 9:31.73 by Jonny Stevens, when he placed second at the 2008 state meet. Interestingly, Middaugh’s time would have won the 2022 5A 3200-meter race by four seconds and the 4A title 14 of the past 15 years.
“There are a ton of unbelievable 4A runners right now,” Parish said.
Racing in the historically deep field, Middaugh benefited from the race favorites hovering around 4:40 pace after a quick, 66-second first lap. The Husky senior latched onto a train of 11 athletes through the first five laps.
“My goal going in was to podium, but I think my plan was just kind of sticking in the pack,” Middaugh said.
“During the race, I wasn’t really keeping track of time at all. I was just holding on to the back of that group.”
Niwot’s Zane Bergen — considered by many to be the most lethal distance runner in all classes in the state — finally went to the front with 1400-meters remaining, though he backed off his surge shortly after, keeping everyone in contention. On the following lap, a sense of urgency developed within the peloton.
“I knew at some point the leaders would make some moves. I just stuck right in there,” Middaugh said of the crunch time moment.
Middaugh remained tall and relaxed as runners jostled for position. Aware those moves made in the front could be costly, the senior worked to maintain contact with the leaders. Bergen crossed in 6:59.91 with two laps remaining, carrying a slew of strung-out runners with him, including Middaugh, who moved into eighth.
As the once tightly-knit pack continued to thin out, Middaugh kept his cool, knowing he was enjoying the flow state inherent to special performances where everything clicks.
“I felt amazing, so I knew I was having a good day,” he said of his state of being late in the race.
“I saw some guys in front of me that I know I can hang with, so that gave me a lot of confidence and that I just had to get through lap seven. I know I can push myself on that last lap.”
Running single file, Middaugh went around Connor McCormick on the backstretch. With less than 600 to go, the top dogs were out of the kennel completely, and with the pace ratcheted up to another level, Middaugh found himself holding on for dear life. As the bell lap approached, he caught the clock for the first time.
“I knew with one lap to go, if I could run a 64, I could maybe beat Porter’s time from Arcadia,” he said.
McCormick, a fast finisher, moved behind Erik Le Roux, one of the other pre-race favorites from Cheyenne Mountain, and both stalked and eventually passed Bergen with 350-meters remaining. Bergen moved into lane three on the backstretch, but there was no matching McCormick’s closing speed. The Longmont runner ran 57.98 on the final revolution to win the race in a new 4A meet record of 9:03.83.
Meanwhile, Middaugh gritted out a 1:06.74, just missing Cheyenne Mountain’s Cedar Collins by 0.37 seconds to place ninth, the final podium spot. Following traditional record-setting acumen, he wound up with slightly negative 1600 splits (4:38, 4:37), indicating there was nothing more to give.
“It feels amazing,” he said of having every factor align, granting the best performance in the most important competition.
“There was nothing that could have gone better, so I just have to be happy with it.”
Battle Mountain also had three other athletes take to the track in the 3200-meter run on Saturday, with Porter Middaugh running 9:43.14 to place 14th in the boys race and Milaina Almonte and Lindsey Whitton contesting the girls 3200-meter.
“Lindsey, Milaina and Porter all ran really well,” Parish noted.
In the girl’s race, Niwot’s superstar Eva Klingbeil strung out the pack early and, after seeing the race was well in hand, coasted to a 10:29.62 win. Summit High School freshman Ella Hagen trusted her plan, moving up from various chase packs until she was alone in third, where she finished in 10:50.05, a personal best by 13 seconds.
Whitton and Almonte kept the string of season-bests going, with the latter running 11:15.05 to place 10th. It’s the second-fastest altitude 3200 at Battle Mountain, only trailing Naomi Harding’s 11:05 from 2018.
“The race was pretty intimidating,” she said of her first individual event at state.
“It was hard to stay engaged and everything, but I was pretty happy with my time and place. I wish I could have passed just one more person.”
Almonte ran 11:42 in 2021.
“To improve that much is amazing,” Parish said.
“We’re working with her to view herself in the same way she views the other elite runners. She is one of the elite runners in Colorado.”
Almonte offered the secret to the Huskies string of personal bests.
“Just being focused and being excited to race really helps,” she said.
“And just having the goal of getting a PR.”
Day 2 results
- Eagle Valley’s Zakia Shreeve ran 46.28 to qualify for Sunday’s 300-meter hurdles final. The freshman will compete at 2 p.m.
- Roman Turner placed 18th in the long jump with a leap of 17 feet, 10.50 inches.
- The team of Kiki Hancock, Marley Geisler, Presley Smith and Tabi Schroeder paced the Battle Mountain girls sprint medley relay team to a second place finish. The Huskies finished in 1:49.91. Niwot won in 1:48.80.
- Lindsey Kiehl ran 2:15.60, a season-best by over three seconds to place sixth in a stacked 800-meter field. Madison Shults helped Niwot take the first four places in the race, winning in 2:08.33.