GJ's Jackson, Fruita's Hunt push each other during jump competitions at Mickey Dunn
Whitney Jackson won the long jump with Niki Hunt finishing second. Hunt won the triple jump with Jackson finishing second. Get used to it.
What the pair did Saturday in the Mickey Dunn Invitational track and field meet at Stocker Stadium is likely going to happen over and over this spring. Maybe they’ll flip-flop places, but expect them at or near the top of every meet.
They are competitors whose desire to win will push each other, bringing out each other’s best.
“I just really want to win,” Jackson said. “I don’t like losing.”
Hunt can say the same.
Yet, they will encourage each other along the way.
Although the seniors are natural rivals because of their schools — Jackson at Grand Junction and Hunt at Fruita Monument — they said they’ve become good friends, training and competing together in the winter for the Grand Valley Thunderbirds club track and field team.
“Whitney and I are neck and neck in the triple and long jumps,” Hunt said. “We really push each other, and we both want to win, but we want each other to do well, too.”
When both finished competing Saturday afternoon — Jackson claimed the long jump with a leap of 17-feet, 7.5 inches, followed by Hunt’s 17-1.5 — the two hugged on the track’s infield.
Sean Mulvey, a Fruita Monument assistant track coach, coached both athletes on the Thunderbirds, and he said their strong starts to the season reflect the work they put in during the offseason.
Hunt has been working hard on the technical aspects of her jumps, and they clicked Saturday, especially in the long jump, where Mulvey said she went about 25 inches farther than her best distance as a junior. Of course, she won the triple jump as the only competitor to clear 34 feet, going 34-6.75, followed by Jackson’s 33-11.
Jackson, meanwhile, competing in her second meet of the season, already posted a longer long jump than the one that got her eighth place at the Class 5A state meet last year. The only problem with the distance was it wasn’t the 18 feet she wanted to get Saturday.
Jackson, Mulvey said, has been working hard with the goal of competing for a Division I university. She added the triple jump to her events this year and was a point-scoring machine Saturday, adding a win in the 100-meter dash and running a leg on Grand Junction’s winning 400 relay team.
Jumping and sprinting were a good combination of events for the Tigers as a whole as they finished second in the girls team standings with 81 points, one point behind the winner, Durango.
Grand Junction also got wins from Sydni Brandon in the 200 and Madison Marsh in the high jump, and Brandon added a fourth-place finish in the 100 and joined Jackson, Jill Payne and Natalie DeRush on the victorious 400 relay. Payne finished second in the 200.
“With the weather being as interesting as it was, our kids did very well today,” Tigers coach Sean Henry said, referring to the cold (approximately 40 degrees) and wind that prevailed all day.
Hunt helped Fruita Monument finish eighth in the 21-team field.
Delta was fourth with 56 points and got a win from Bryanna Music in the shot put.
Rifle got a win from Joey Kuheim in the discus, which she won by 17 feet with a toss of 126-4, and her teammate, Abby Orgill was second.
Speaking of sizable wins in the discus, Grand Junction’s Deshaun Harris did what no one else in the boys field could do: Defy the wind.
The 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior let it fly with a winning toss of 149-5, 22 feet farther than teammate Quinton Walton, who finished second in an event that the Tigers dominated. Grand Junction’s Michael McKnight was sixth with a throw of 120-10.
“The wind did affect me a lot,” said Harris, who placed sixth in the discus and fourth in the shot put at the Class 5A state meet last year. “The way it was blowing, it wasn’t a good wind for me. I had to adjust my angle. ... I had to go up higher because the wind pushes it down.”
He just missed his goal of 150 feet Saturday, and for an early season effort the result is promising, as he said his personal best is 153 feet.
Harris added a second-place finish in the shot put (46-10.75), where before the season ends he’d like to surpass his previous best of 50-10.
Grand Junction had one more winner Saturday: Greg Eccher in the 1,600 with a time of 4 minutes, 49.69 seconds. The Tigers finished with 61.6 points, good for fourth place out of 21 teams. Eagle Valley won the meet with 90 points.
Fruita Monument picked up a pair of wins on the way to 58.5 points and fifth place. Chuck Bisbee won the 3,200, and fellow Wildcats Vince Grasso, Zach Griggs, Cody Maston and Josh Schweigart teamed up to win the 400 relay.
Palisade was sixth with 43.5 points, followed by Rifle with 35.
Cedaredge won three events as Reid Gates sailed to a 6-8 in the high jump and was the only competitor to clear six feet. Gates also won the long jump, and teammate Dante Markely won the 110 hurdles.