Teammates’ support helps state track and field athletes

Ready for state: From left, Palisade’s Sean Dunn, Kane Gunther and Collin Girardi are three of the Bulldogs competing in the state meet.

There’s a lot to be said for just making it to the state track and field meet.

Today at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood, the top athletes are competing in 35 events in each of five classifications.

With the circus that is the state meet, it helps to have support from teammates.

“It builds morale being able to take more than one or two people,” Palisade coach Tim Reetz said. “They’ve been working hard together and they can keep each other accountable.”

Reetz said the first experience at the state meet for any athlete can be overwhelming.

“You get there and the warm-up area is horrible, the amount of people there is terrible, and you have all this stuff going on,” Reetz said. “Having a group of people with you always helps.”

The Bulldogs have six individuals in the meet, with Olevia Shafer starting bright and early this morning in the triple jump. Savannah Hanson competes in the discus Saturday afternoon.

Kane Gunther qualified in the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 4 inches, and is making his second trip to state, but is competing in the high jump for the first time.

Last year, Gunther was a part of the Bulldogs’ 3,200-meter relay team.

“Last year showed me that I have to be composed,” Gunther said. “When there is a lot of people around, you have to stay focused.”

A total of 24 athletes qualified for the 4A high jump, ranging from 6-foot-2 to 6-9.

Reetz said Gunther’s in a good position heading into the state meet.

“In years past, 6-4 at the state meet will usually get you in the top five,” Reetz said. “So many qualified at 6-3, 6-2 and get to the state meet and don’t get even close.

“For him to qualify as a junior is huge because you can get one under your belt, and I think he has a great chance to bring home a medal.”

Also in the 4A meet, Delta’s Ethan Baier is competing in the high jump, long jump and triple jump. Montrose is led by its distance runners. Eric Shellhorn is running the 800- and 1,600-meter runs, and the Indians have relay teams in the boys 1,600- and 3,200-meter and the girls 3,200-meter relay.

In 5A, Grand Junction hurdler Jamie Derrieux was on the outside looking in when the top 18 rankings were finalized in the 100-meter hurdles on Sunday. The No. 18 ranked runner, Ponderosa’s Amee Tan, dropped out because she’s the school’s valedictorian and opted to attend graduation this week. Derrieux replaced Tan.

“Jamie’s in and she’s hyped,” Grand Junction coach Darrell Simonton said. “She’s only run five hurdles events this year, so she’s ready to go.”

Fruita Monument has its boys 800-meter relay team going and three throwers, with discus throwers Jaden Koos and Tyler Church and shot putter Keila Utu.

Central is led by Aaron Wallway, who’s seeded in the top 10 in both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles.

In 3A, many events look like a heat from a Western Slope meet. There are 22 events with at least three Western Slope athletes competing.

There are eight Western Slope athletes in the girls 100-meter dash, including seven of eight spots in the first heat of the prelim race on today at 1:10 p.m.

“We have some salty competition on the Western Slope,” Grand Valley coach Mark Jansen said. “When we look at the heat sheets, it looks familiar.”

Grand Valley has athletes peppered throughout the heat sheets, including senior Omar Melendrez, who’s in the 100- and 200-meter dash.

“We approach this as any other meet,” Jansen said. “We want to take off as much pressure as we can.”

In 2A, Paonia has a bushel of athletes competing. The Eagles have three sprinters in the boys 100-meter dash with Steven Voight, Adrian Penny and Richard Emmons.

The Eagles girls team is led by Chelsy Reed, who’s seeded first in the 800-meter run with a 2:24.18.

In 1A, Plateau Valley has athletes in four individual events and the boys 800-meter relay. The Cowboys’ Chase Langley is seeded first in the high jump.


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