Vail Christian track teams up for state meet
EDWARDS — The Fab Five is no longer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. These five are based out of Vail Christian.
So Chris Weber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson can make way for Saints track and field’s Kendelle Smith, Mariana Engleby, Catherine Donoho, Kiana Brausch and Blake Layman.
And much like Michigan’s Fab Five, this quintet is young and already performing on the big stage. After all, Layman, a vaulter, is the grizzled veteran of the squad as a junior as the Saints head to 2A state track and field meet at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood, starting Thursday, May 17.
As young as the Saints ladies are, they already have a bronze medal in the 1,600-meter relay. Last year, that was Gracie Shanley, Engleby, Donoho and Brausch.
Freshman Smith has been this year’s discovery and she has overtaken Shanley, who is now an alternate.
So, Vail Christian’s 400, 800 and 1,600 relay teams are three sophomores — Engleby, Donoho, and Brausch with a freshman, Smith.
These Saints have recorded the third best times in the 800 and 1,600 relays, going into state.
“It’s so exciting. They have continued to improve even as the season has progressed,” Vail Christian track and field coach Jen Sticksel said. “It’s tempting to think, ‘Omigosh, in two years, they’re going to be pretty special.’ But what’s pretty special about this group, the boys, too, is that they have a ton of composure. They’re pretty un-phased by who else is on the track.”
And that’s an important quality when your on the sport’s biggest stage.
Hey, more relays
For a rather small school, Vail Christian stands tall. The Saints have state entries in all four of the boys’ relays.
The 400 and 800 teams are Hayden Sticksel, P.G. Nkalang’ango, Harry Jaffe and Quinn Mitchell. In the 1,600, E.J. Koller subs for Nkalang’ango. The 4-by-8 is a different crew with Jose Ascencio, Collin Wilson, Davis Hermes and Keaton Brausch.
Like the ladies, the guys have their best seeding in the 800 and 1,600 team events. Both squads are seeded fourth.
“We just talk about state as another opportunity,” coach Jen Sticksel. “The wonderful thing about state is that it’s the best on the track at one time. It’s an opportunity to run and do your best. We’re there to win and that’s what we talk about.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.