Bruins miss Gates at state track meet

LAKEWOOD — Shane Gates glided over the high jump bar at 5-feet-9-inches.

A huge cheer erupted from the Cedaredge faithful that came to the Colorado State Track and Field Championships on Saturday.

It was like every other event over the weekend. Athletes competed, some won, some placed, others went home with no medal but some special memories.

But the 3A high jump wasn’t the same. Something, or rather someone, was missing.

Shane departed the high jump soon after just the one height.

A disappointing day, but not for Mom and Dad.

Cheryl and Ken Gates were cheering on their sophomore son and all of the Bruins on Saturday.

“He had a tough season on a lot of different levels,” Ken said. “We’re just very proud of him. It didn’t matter how he did today.”

It’s been the toughest year imaginable for the Gates family and the Cedaredge community.

As Andy Boyles of Coal Ridge cleared 6-foot-5 to win the 3A high jump, the missing competitor was on so many people’s minds.

Reid Gates, the magnificent all-around Cedaredge athlete won the high jump last year as a junior.

He tragically died in September from accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Shane, a shy sophomore with kind eyes and a thick mop of dark hair, hugged teammates and friends after his disappointing day.

Thoughts of his big brother had to be on Shane’s mind.

“I don’t see how he couldn’t be,” Cheryl said, dabbing away a tear.

Ken and Cheryl made sure not to talk about Reid too much. This weekend was about all of the young competitors living their dreams.

Cedaredge head coach Kirby Henderson said Reid’s parents have done so much to help everyone heal.

“We brought in Ken and Cheryl and we had them speak to the team. And that set the tone and the expectations for us,” Henderson said.

Ken even crafted a slogan for the team.

“Train hard, Learn to fly, Do just one more, Play to win.”

“It’s what Reid stood for,” Henderson said. “Each one of those lines has a distinct definition of who Reid was and what he stood for.”

It was still an emotional day for many of the Bruins, and Henderson said emotion isn’t bad. Again, it’s another chapter of healing.

“When Shane went out in the high jump today, I wasn’t concerned when I saw Kendall (McHugh) and Summer (Herman), two members of our state championship 4x100 team, break down and cry,” he said. “They were crying because they know how hard it’s been on Shane.”

Shane graciously said he’d rather not talk about Reid on this day.

For Ken, Cheryl and Shane, it was a difficult weekend.

“This was the last big athletic event, so this is kind of the culmination of the athletic seasons,” Ken said. “So, this has been a pretty big weekend.”

“It’s been emotionally tough,” Cheryl added.

Ken offered a small smile, wanting to keep the day positive.

“It’s fun to share the good memories,” he said. “We have a lot of good memories here.”

Last year, Reid cleared 6-foot-7 to win the state title — a great memory.

The high jump event is one of camaraderie, with the athletes hanging out waiting for their turn, even rooting for opponents to succeed.

Andy Bowles thought about Reid on Saturday, remembering his toughest competitor.

“The last couple of jumps he was definitely on my mind,” the Coal Ridge senior said.

He then smiled at the memory of competing against Reid.

“He would have beat me today,” he said.

Then, the smile faded and Bowles glanced at the high jump pit.

“He definitely would have pushed me to go higher,” he said.

For senior Summer Herman, winning a state title as part of that 400-meter relay team was a thrilling end to her high school career, but thinking about her friend also made the weekend difficult.

“I didn’t know it was going to be this hard today, but when I went to watch the high jump, I was like, Reid is supposed to be here,” she said, tears filling her eyes.

For the Bruins, the weekend was about many things. With Reid in their hearts and minds and a motivating slogan on their T-shirts — “Train hard, Learn to fly, Do just one more, Play to win” — they competed and enjoyed a special weekend.

Later this week, Cedaredge will celebrate the class of 2014 at graduation. Another tough day, with lots of good memories and a mingling of joy and sadness.

On Saturday, Summer, her energetic eyes dimmed by thoughts of Reid, looked away and sighed, not sure what to say.

Then she said what everyone was thinking: “I just wish he was here.”

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