A relay runaway
Paonia girls, Hotchkiss boys race to Class 2A state titles in 3,200-meter relay
LAKEWOOD — In a matter of minutes, the Class 2A State Track and Field Championships got a bit exciting for a couple of North Fork Valley teams Thursday.
The late-afternoon thrills began with the finals of the girls 3,200-meter relay, with Paonia entering the state meet with the classification’s second-fastest regular-season time and Hotchkiss the third.
By the backstretch of the third lap, Paonia was in control and breezed to a state-record time.
Taylor Plymale, Ashley Van Vleet, Chelsy Reed and Taylor Polson blitzed the field with a time of 9 minutes, 33.81 seconds.
Plymale’s goal was to clock a time of 2:30, which would put the team on a state-record pace.
“We were planning to pace one of (Hotchkiss’s) girls,” she said.
That was until Vanguard Christian’s team came out of nowhere to take the lead.
No problem, said Van Vleet, who erased a two-second deficit by the backstretch of her first lap. She handed the baton to Reed with a seven-second lead.
“The goal was for (Plymale and VanVleet) to take the lead and for me to keep it,” Reed said.
Not only did she do that, she had a 50-meter advantage on the field by the time of her exchange with Polson.
“I was scared because I knew the other girls were fast,” Polson said of what she expected from the anchor competition.
By that time, however, she had it on cruise control as the Eagles won the race by more than 10 seconds.
Despite running in the same meets frequently during the season, the Paonia and Hotchkiss 3,200 relay teams hadn’t run against each other until the state meet, which was the third time all season the Paonia girls had run as a unit. Hotchkiss, pushed by Paonia and Vanguard, finished in second place, four-tenths of a second ahead of Lyons, with Vanguard fading to fourth.
“We were definitely pleased,” Hotchkiss senior anchor Natalie Anderson said.
But the fun was just starting. Moments later, the Hotchkiss and Paonia boys took to the track for their 3,200-meter relay. This time it was the Bulldogs’ turn to make equally easy work in earning the state crown.
Lead runner Andrew Tiedeman set the pace early, and Hotchkiss never looked back.
“We pushed each other (all season),” Tiedeman said of knowing the foursome had something special going.
Alex Smith took the handoff for the second leg.
“I was just thinking, ‘No one’s going to pass me,’ ” he said. “I knew (third runner Kurt Katzdorn) was going to hold the lead. I just wanted to make it easy on him.”
It wasn’t all relaxation for Katzdorn, though.
“We’ve been saying, ‘When you get tired, go faster,’ ” he said.
He pushed himself hard, setting the table for Cody Bartlett in the final leg. Bartlett’s goal during his two laps was to help the team set a school record.
“So I knew I had to get after it,” he said.
Despite his efforts, that mark came up just short, although Hotchkiss crossed the finish line in 8:11.76 to win by more than 11 seconds.
The Paonia boys team of Jacob Helleckson, Jesse Reed, Jason Sturgis and Jeramiah Hellman finished third behind Telluride in a strong Western Slope showing.
The Paonia boys also had a strong showing in the throws as Tony Darling placed second in the shot put with a toss of 44 feet, 7.5 inches, which was 13 feet behind the winning throw of Eads’ Daniel Weirich.
“My goal was to get second, so I was pretty happy,” Darling said.
Having placed seventh as a freshman and ninth as a sophomore, he was pleased to move up the ladder for his junior season.
With only one running race and three field events conducted as finals in 2A, the quick start allowed Paonia to take the first-day lead in the team standings with Hotchkiss in second in both the boys and girls meets.