Eagles soar to 2A girls state title
LAKEWOOD — The Paonia High School girls track team felt throughout the Class 2A state track and field championships that the Eagles had the team title in the bag.
The Eagles backed that up Saturday, pulling away in the afternoon to win their second consecutive state title with some strong performances in the running events.
Throughout the three-day meet, Paonia believed its strongest competition would come from its North Fork neighbor and rival, Hotchkiss. It did.
The Eagles finished with 102 points. Hotchkiss was second with 86.
“It means so much,” Paonia senior Taylor Polson said. “I’ve been out here watching and jumping up and down (for teammates). It means a lot to actually get (the title).”
Hotchkiss did its best to keep pace in the middle of the day with victories by Jennifer Celis in the 1,600-meter run and 400-meter dash. That was all the more impressive considering they were run less than 20 minutes apart. Celis set a 2A state record of 4 minutes, 58.55 seconds in the 1,600.
Those came on the heels of her meet-record 800-meter victory on Friday.
Sisters Natalie and Mae Anderson joined Celis on the podium in the 1,600, placing sixth and ninth, respectively.
Kelli Buhrdorf was seventh for the Bulldogs in the 100-meter dash, and teammate Daryl Batt was ninth in the discus.
Paonia picked up points in the 200 with Marisa Edmondson placing third and Brianna VanVleet fifth, and in the 300 hurdles with Polson third and Morgan Hartigan ninth.
VanVleet joined her sister Ashley on the podium in the 400, placing fourth and eighth, respectively.
But the Eagles sealed the deal by winning the 400-meter relay, the one relay in which Hotchkiss did not have an entry in the finals. At that point, with only the 1,600 relay remaining, Paonia had 94 points and Hotchkiss 76.
Paonia won the 1,600 relay last year at state, and Hotchkiss has finished second in the race the past two years.
The Bulldogs, with Celis and Natalie Anderson each running a leg of the relay for the fourth year, were determined from the outset to win this time and took the lead on the first leg. Celis, running her last high school race, took the baton for the anchor leg and was not to be denied, not on this day.
“I guess it was fear,” she said of her thoughts entering the race. Upon having the lead, she said, “My goal was just to maintain.”
She did, with Polson, Paonia’s anchor, trying to reel her in.
“We wanted a repeat,” Polson said of trying for another 1,600 relay title, “but more than anything we wanted to go out and have a great race and have fun.”
She did, and with it, more joy in earning another Paonia team title.