Spring prep preview: Battle Mountain track and field looks to keep the momentum going | VailDaily.com

Spring prep preview: Battle Mountain track and field looks to keep the momentum going

Huskies are the defending boys and girls Wester Slope League champions

Kiki Hancock helped Battle Mountain place second and third in the sprint medley and 4x400-meter relays at the 2022 4A state track meet.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

Battle Mountain isn’t about to complain about a snowy winter. After all, the school repeated as girls state ski champions this February and placed second for the second straight year on the boys side. Plentiful powder has consequences though, and as many of those Nordic and Alpine stars turn their attention to track and join forces with their other winter-sports friends, it’s made the annual transition require a little more creativity.

“The awesome winter of snow was fun and now we’re paying for it as a track team,” laughed coach Rob Parish, who has led team dynamic warmups in the parking lot and run hill workouts in nearby neighborhoods as everyone waits patiently for things to melt on the track.

“We’re fine with it. It’s early.”

Even though marking out steps and becoming reacquainted with spikes and starting blocks is the main priority for the first meet of the season — Friday’s Rifle Invitational — one Husky has already shown flashes of speed in a few indoor meets this winter. Junior Will Brunner ran 8:35 in the 3,000-meters at the BU Scarlet and White Invitational on Feb. 4 and then notched a 9:22.28 full 2-mile at the New Balance Indoor National meet on March 10. With the bike path covered in ice throughout January and February, Brunner’s chance to get in any race-pace work was pretty limited before those tests.

“Not just speed (workouts) — we haven’t even done a tempo or fartlek or anything,” Parish said, pointing out a physiological anecdote that bodes well for the junior as he chases down the 3200-meter school record. It’s held by his teammate and training partner.

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Will Brunner (far left) and Porter Middaugh (second from left) will be chasing the 1600-meter record set by 2022 graduate Sullivan Middaugh (far right) last season. Porter already holds the 3200-meter record.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Let’s just say Porter Middaugh’s 9:14.03 from last April’s Arcadia Invitational in California might not live to see its first anniversary.

“I mean, all the distance records are on a limited time with those two guys,” Parish said. After both announced themselves into the state’s upper echelon thanks to a series of blistering cross-country marks last fall, Parish expects the two juniors to get accepted into Arcadia’s Saturday night elite fields on April 6.

“Which is like the ‘big boy’ ones,” the coach said. “We’ve had a lot of kids run at Arcadia, but very few have run in the Saturday night invitational heats.”

While the distance strength from the school’s cross-country program has often powered the track team, the 2022 squad packed punch across several events. Current Colorado Mesa freshman Augustine Hancock obliterated school throw marks multiple times and T.J. Nixon — now at Montana State University — was a sniff away from doing so in the high jump.

“To lose Augustine and T.J. — those are big, big losses for sure,” Parish said. “From a points standpoint, but also even more so from a leadership standpoint.”

Add in graduates Rashawn Reid, who made it to state in the horizontal jumps, and Patrick Friery the No. 7-ranked pole vaulter, and Battle Mountain had reliable stalwarts up and down the heat sheet every week.

“That is going to be a challenge,” Parish said of replacing his field-event leaders. “The past few years, especially last year, the track team was so balanced. We haven’t always had that.”

It propelled both boys and girls to Western Slope League meet titles, the first time in Parish’s career he’s had both win. For the girls, it was their 10th in the last 12 years and seventh in a row. Parish said the goal for the team is once again to be competitive at the league meet as a team and for the top individuals to shake things up at state at the end of May.

“In all of the competitions we do, the league track meet is probably my favorite because it’s attainable, it’s fun and it’s also something that everybody on your team can get into and contribute to,” he continued. “Fifty kids can be all a part of it and feel like they have some say in the outcome, so that’s always one that we point towards.”

The girls should be potent from the 100 all the way to the 3200.

“I think probably the deepest area of the entire team is the girls running events,” he said. “Looking at who’s coming back, we have strong sprinters, mid-distance and distance on paper.”

Milaina Almonte and Lindsey Whitton will lead the longer events and Kiki Hancock will do the short stuff.

“From the 100 to the 400, she could be very special,” Parish said of the sophomore. Presley Smith can do pretty much anything, but the mid-distance star’s main target might just be the 400-meter school record.

“She probably has the most range,” Parish said, noting that the 58.2-second mark was set in the hand-timed days. Plus, Smith has dipped under 58 altogether multiple times in relays. Given the running depth, it’s likely the team will foster a nice 4×800-meter relay team per usual and Parish thinks the sprint medley will be a quick group as well. In the field, state high-jump qualifier Tyler Heimerl and the team’s top pole vaulter, Stella Jackson, also return.

For the boys, Brunner and Middaugh will anchor the distance squad and Terrance Reid should contend for the podium in the sprints.

“He’s going to be a stud, 100 through 400,” Parish said of Reid. “And he’s worked hard this pre-season, so I think he’ll be strong.” The senior will be supported by soccer stars Alexis Dozal and Edwyn Montes in the 100 and 200 and Cooper Skidmore will provide versatility in the field as a thrower and jumper. Of course, the veteran coach knows a few diamonds in the rough will probably emerge as the weather warms …and that snow melts.

“Just keeping it going,” he said when asked about the theme coming into the year. “We want to see improvement and buy-in from everybody, no matter where they are.”

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