Fruita Monument’s Valdez loves to fly

Katie Chapman of Delta High School jumps in the finals of the triple jump Friday at the Tiger Invitational track meet.

It was Josh Valdez’s last jump.

“I just knew I wanted to fly,” the Fruita Monument High School senior said of his last attempt in the finals of the long jump during Friday’s first day of the Tiger Invitational track meet at Stocker Stadium. “I knew it was all on the line.”

At the time, he trailed Palmer’s Maurice Blackledge by half a foot.

Valdez put together the jump of a lifetime, leaping 22 feet, 10.5 inches to beat Blackledge by five inches and win the event.

He knew his jump was good when he left the board.

“I didn’t know it was that good,” he said of a jump that topped his own school record by 10 inches.

Valdez’s victory helped the Wildcats take the lead in the boys meet after five events. The meet continues with finals in all events at 8:30 this morning.

Fruita Monument has a nine-point lead over Pomona after five events in the team race.

With a first- and third-place finish in the triple jump, Wheat Ridge grabbed the lead in the girls meet after four events with 24 points.

Annie Kunz’s impressive jump of 37-2 won the triple jump by 11 inches over Delta’s Katie Chapman. Chloe Gearhart of Wheat Ridge was third.

Durango, looking strong in the distance events, is second with 18, two points ahead of Dakota Ridge, which also scored well in the two distance finals, the 3,200-meter relay and the 3,200-meter run.

Valdez was ranked 16th in this week’s Class 5A rankings. The top 18 competitors ranked in each event after next week’s regular-season finale qualify for the state meet.

Valdez’s finish Friday is 51/4 inches better than any jump in the state as of last week’s rankings. Joe Takikawa of Littleton was ranked No. 1 with a distance of 22-51/4.

“It’s my senior year,” Valdez said, a big smile crossing his face. “I’m liking this.”
Fruita Monument’s jumpers have been strong all season.

“There’s competition every week (at practice),” Valdez said.

Asked if he can go even farther in the next couple of weeks, he held out hope.

“I think I can,” he said. “(Jumping) is just all in my mind.”


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