Athletes test skills at Western Rockies Sports Combine

Athletes were tested by pulling their own weight on a sled Saturday during the Western Rockies Sports Combine at Stocker Stadium. Roughly 50 high school athletes got the opportunity to compete in drills and receive official documentation of their abilities to send to college recruiters.

Tyler Hernandez, of Grand Junction, jumped 24.5 inches on this vertical jump Saturday during the Western Rockies Sports Combine.

Jacob Cosby runs 40-yard dash on Saturday during the Western Rockies Sports Combine at Stocker Stadium.

The high school athletes crossed a finish line after a 40-yard dash at Stocker Stadium on Saturday, checked their times on the electronic boxes, and often shook their heads, gasped in disgust or immediately got back in line.

The truth, raw and humbling and accurate, was unearthed at the Western Rockies Sports Combine.

Austin Lewis, a 15-year-old sophomore at Grand Junction High, is the founder and president of the Western Rockies Sports Combine. The combine allowed roughly 50 high school athletes, most football players, the opportunity to compete in drills and receive official documentation of their abilities to send to college recruiters.

The truth indeed was painful.

Using the same PowerDash 3X equipment that was used last week for an NFL combine in Indianapolis, athletes did not have to travel to other states such as “nearby” Texas and Arizona for similar combines.

But here was the kicker: The times tested at Stocker Stadium were more accurate than those at any NFL combine, according to Mike Weinstein, owner of Sybek Athletic Products.

Weinstein ran the equipment at an NFL combine in Indianapolis a week ago.

The top times ever recorded by NFL players are staggering, to say the least (since electronic timing was implemented at NFL combines in 1999, the fastest recorded time is 4.24 seconds by Rondel Melendez and Chris Johnson) — but are they accurate?

No, says Weinstein. In NFL combines, the stopwatch is started by hand, and stopped when the runner crosses a laser at the finish.

At Lewis’s combine on Saturday, both start and finish were triggered by the crossing of a laser.

Because the hand is slow to anticipate a sprinter’s start, the times can be between .1 and .3 seconds faster than by starting and stopping the time with lasers.

“It’s nice that our times are extremely accurate,” Lewis said.

But many athletes realized they are much slower than they thought.

“The first 40 dash I ran a 5.3 and 5.4,” Lewis said, “I was like, ‘Oh. Come on.’ But I cut it to 5.1 so I was happy.”

Lewis’s combine gave athletes accurate times, which means when, or if, they show up to a college campus to have their speeds tested, their time will be similar to that they had listed.

“Coaches want to know your times are good,” said Grant Black, a quarterback for the Grand Junction Gladiators semi-professional team. “And they want accurate times.”

PREP STAR, a national recruiting service, also was on hand.

The company in part develops athlete’s resumes, and sends them to colleges that have signed up to receive statistics recorded at such combines. Bill Austin, Prep Star recruting director, said 32,000 colleges have signed up to receive PREP STAR athletes’ profiles.

In addition to their 40-yard dash times, athletes were tested for jumping ability (vertical jump, standing long jump), agility (Pro Agility and ‘L’ drill), flexibility (sit and reach) and bench press.

Athletes also could sprint while pulling their own weight — they wore a harnassed and pulled a 50-pound sled topped by weights. It was the first such drill at a combine, said Austin’s dad, K.C. Lewis.

But the most popular drill was, of course, the 40-yard dash. It also was the most disappointing to athletes because of the accuracy of the times clocked.

“I saw some frustrated people,” said Theron Verna, a sophomore fullback and defensive end for Grand Junction High. “They’d say, ‘How is that big guy with a 5.0 or 5.1 running faster than I am?’ “

Weinstein said the average college athlete is worth about $120,000 to a particular university.

“So they have to be careful about who they’re picking to be with them for the long run,” Weinstein said.

And that screams for a need of accurate times, even if it hurts the athlete’s ego.

Overall, Lewis said the combine was a success.

“They were happy they didn’t have to travel too far to do this,” Lewis said.


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