Make it three in a row for Smith |

Make it three in a row for Smith

Ryan Slabaugh

PUEBLO –What a way to finish a career.

Eagle Valley senior Kim Smith won her third-straight 3A state championship in the 800 Saturday at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo, using a huge kick in the last 200 meters to overcome La Junta’s Ashley Velez.

Velez led by as much as 30 meters before Smith’s charge, which began just before the final turn. The senior, who won state championships in the 800 her sophomore and junior year, found herself in third place for most of the race.

“I knew I had some left,” said Smith, who got a big hug from her sister, Kelly, as soon as she finished. “I couldn’t let (Velez) get so far ahead I couldn’t come back. That did kind of scare me.”

Smith’s time of 2 minutes, 19.01 seconds was a little off her state-record time she had a year ago, but the three-sport star made her final state championship one to remember for her parents, Eric and Brandi.

“Before the race, I was just pacing back and forth,” said Smith. “I kept telling myself, “it was my race.’ It’s been my race for two years, so why not make it three.”

The win was bittersweet for her coach, Jeff Shroll, who smiled at the win and frowned at witnessing Smith’s final high school race.

“The whole team (looks up to her),” Shroll said. “I do. She’s probably ready to turn around and coach right now if she wanted to. She’s a born leader. She’s also a great student at track. I’ve probably never met a tougher athlete.’

Smith wasn’t the only member of a strong Devils team to have a strong showing. Sophomore Brad Gamble picked up two second-place finishes in the hurdle events, losing the 300 hurdles by half a chin. Gunnison’s Matt Sparks beat Gamble in both the 300 and 100 events.

“He had a little more speed at the end,” said Gamble, who’s cheering section was led by his brother, Chris, who won a few state championships himself in his day. “I had a bad start, but it turned out to be a good race. I’m happy.”

Gamble’s times of 38.81 and 15.07 in the 300 and 100, respectively, were both personal bests for the young speedster.

Eagle Valley girls’ medley team started the day off with a seventh-place finish, before the sun began baking the athletes and fans. Track temperatures hovered around 100 degrees in the late afternoon. Still, Whitney Donahue, Laura Sandoval, Katie Wick and Smith made no excuses for their finish.

“There were doubts we were going to even make it to state this year,” Wick said. “We made it, and to make it to the finals is a great end.”

Devils distance runner Everet Minett competed in the 800 finals, while Jessica Medsker placed 12th in the 3,200.

But in the end, the day belonged to Smith, who will be attending Colorado Northwest Community College in Rangely in the fall, where she will switch to a lower gear and run cross country.

“Why not?” she said. “It’s a new sport and a new challenge.”

Four years ago, Smith began running track without a clue of what events would be her best. Four state championships later, a new challenge may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

NOTES: In the team competition, Eagle Valley boys finished sixth, after finishing sixth last season … The girls team finished 14th … Gunnison won the boys overall title, while Hotchkiss won the girls title … Ex-Broncos all-pro Rick Upchurch handed out the awards to the athletes.

Saints runners conclude fine season

Ryan Slabaugh

PUEBLO –Marty, to the Delorean.

Like the crew from Back to the Future, Vail Christian did its best to to see the future Saturday at the final day of the 2A state track meet at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo.

Freshman Leslie Peterson placed third in the 400, breaking the school record after finishing in 59.3 seconds. Peterson, who missed second by less than a second, had every reason to be satisfied.

Panting and out of breath, she showed how competitive she’ll be in the years to come.

“I was hoping for a little better,” Peterson said. “But I feel OK. High school track has been a big change. It’s a whole different deal.”

Peterson, who qualified for four events, and sophomore Rachel Glandorf, paired up with underclassmen Amanda Larson and Nicole Parker in the 1,600 relay Friday, and missed a spot in the finals by one position. Still, Glandorf, who broke the school record during her third-place finish in the 800 Friday, finished in the middle of the pack in Saturday’s 1,600.

“I just never felt right,” Glandorf said. “I couldn’t get my rhythm. But I owe all of this to my coaches. I learned a lot with Mr. Peterson, and Mr. Isbell’s just awesome.”

Isbell and Peterson could only smile at the success.

“Between Rachel and Leslie, between the two of them, they really help each other,” coach Peterson said.

Isbell agreed.

“To get two folks at the state meet in third place, that’s incredible,” Isbell said. “The talent level is so much higher this year than last.”

Saints leaper Robbie Brgoch also finished ninth in the pole vault Saturday.

NOTES: Vail Christian girls placed 21st in 2A state … Lyons won the girls overall title, while Holyoke won its fifth-straight boys title by a single point over Peyton.

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