First year on track ends with second-place finish in 800 for Cote

Rafael Cote surges toward the finish line during Friday’s 800-meter run at the Class 5A state track and field championships in Lakewood. The Grand Junction senior’s finishing kick was matched by Littleton’s Nate Guthals, who edged Cote by just over one-half second

LAKEWOOD — Rafael Cote hadn’t run track since he was in middle school.

Between lifting weights and club soccer, he’d always had something else to do in the spring.

“I figured, it’s my senior year; you’ve got to make it worthwhile,” Cote said.

That’s why he went out for the Grand Junction High School track team this season.

Standing on the Jefferson County Stadium awards podium at the Class 5A state track & field championships on Friday, he was glad he decided to compete.

Cote finished second in the finals of the 800-meter run.

“It feels good,” he said of placing at the state track meet. “It’s my first year in track.”

Cote ran middle distances in middle school. He wasn’t sure how a three-year layoff, a natural growth spurt during high school and weightlifting would affect his running when he went to preseason workouts.

“I thought, why not middle distances,” he said.

Cote finished the first lap of the two-lap race Friday in third place. He tried to move up on the final backstretch but thought better when a strong headwind slowed his progress.

“Going into (the wind) did not help,” Cote said.

Heading around the final curve, “I got boxed in,” he said.

He had to wait until the start of the final stretch before he could swing outside. He passed the third-place runner, but Littleton’s Nate Guthals matched his kick down the stretch to hold on, nipping Cote by just over one-half second.

“It was a good race,” Cote said, pleased with his accomplishment.

District 51 had two boys reach the finals in the long jump Friday. Fruita Monument’s Josh Valdez placed eighth and Grand Junction’s Randy Brown ninth.

A strong headwind throughout the morning hampered the long jumpers.

“I just wasn’t hitting (my mark),” said Valdez.

“I still got the 22 (feet), 10 (inches),” he said of taking pride in establishing the state’s best qualifying mark during the season.

“The wind was bad. Each time I was behind the board,” Brown said of his plant foot.

Brown was philosophical.

“Being in the top 10 is nothing to get mad at,” he said.

Besides, he’s got one more event before his prep career comes to a close.

“(On Saturday) I’ll have the gold medal,” he predicted of having a good day in the triple jump.

Central sophomore Amanda Chaffin tied for eighth place in the girls high jump, clearing 5 feet.

Grand Junction’s Herman Gutierrez finished ninth in the 110-meter hurdles finals and also qualified for today’s finals in the 300 intermediate hurdles.

In addition to the 300 hurdles finals this afternoon, Gutierrez joins teammates Jonathon Wright, Stuart Shrum and Cote in the final event of the 5A meet, the 1,600 relay.


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