Saints’ Gruber wins state title in 800
DENVER – Vail Christian’s Ashlyn Gruber and Kylie Alexander are playing a game of “Anything you can do, I can do better” at the state track and field meet down in Denver.
“It’s exciting. It’s still soaking in,” Gruber said. “Kylie and I are having fun calling each other, ‘state champion.'”
A day after Alexander captured the state pole-vault title in Class 1A, Gruber snagged the state crown in the 800 meters, posting a time of 2 minutes, 17.16 seconds, a school record, breaking Rachel Gladorf’s mark set in 2005. For Gruber, that is a personal best, school record and state-meet record, just as Alexander did the day before.
And it really shouldn’t be any other way. Alexander, Gruber and McKenzie O’Brien, for that matter, have been a package deal for four years in various sports at Vail Christian. In volleyball, O’Brien’s the libero, who passes it to Alexander who sets it up for Gruber for the kill. In basketball, O’Brien’s the point guard, Alexander’s the shooting guard and Gruber the power forward.
In the spring, O’Brien plays soccer, but it’s Alexander and Gruber again in track and field.
“We’ve always been together,” Gruber said. “Kylie’s always holding my (starting) block and shouting at me when I’m running. It’s special to have that close relationship.”
“They’re in the same sports, the same classes,” Saints coach Tim Pierson said. “That’s where small schools are unique. They’ve been the heart of the track team.”
And Gruber is a busy lady. She won the 800 Friday, and she runs the 100, 200 and 400 today, and she’s the top-ranked athlete in the latter two races in 1A.
Like all local athletes at the three-day state meet, she’s getting a little help from the schedule. As opposed to the regular season when she runs four events in one day, she was fresh Friday for the 800. That said, the other top-eight runners in 1A were rested as well.
Gruber took third in this race last year, which was surprising, given that it was only the third time she had run the 800 to that point – she had been specializing more in the 200 and 400.
She’s run the 800 at every meet this year, and learned the intricacies of the strategy for the race. Ironically, after gaining all the experience of when to make a move and so on, Gruber led from start to finish Friday, beating Mt. Waldorf’s Birdie Hutton by 4.3 seconds.
“I’ve never had to pace the race before,” she said. “That was interesting. That worked out well. My dad was at the curve of the home stretch and told me that it was mine and ‘Go get it.’ It was fun.”
Apparently, it was also a day to have your father be named Paul. Paul Gruber was a proud father as was Paul Smith. That’s because Vail Christian’s Celia Smith, a sophomore, captured a bronze medal with a jump of 4 feet, 10 inches, in the high jump.
“It’s really cool,” Pierson said. “This is the first year she’s run track and the high jump has become her thing. She’s done quite well and she eclipsed the school record. She did her best at her first state meet.”
As a side note, the mighty Vail Christian track team, all three of them, have 27 points and are in fourth place in 1A after Day 2.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.