Paonia pride

Eagle girls win 2A state team title by 1 point

Hotchkiss’ Jennifer Celis celebrates Saturday after winning the 400-meter dash in state record time. The Paonia girls won the team title.



LAKEWOOD — It would be difficult to top the performance of Jennifer Celis this weekend.

The Hotchkiss High School junior brought home a few medals and a couple of state records in helping the Bulldogs to a third-place finish in the Class 2A State Track and Field Championships.

But the bragging rights in the 2A girls meet went to Hotchkiss’ North Fork Valley friendly rivals, Paonia.

With the last race of the meet, Paonia won the 1,600-meter relay to overtake Akron by one point and win the team crown 87-86, with Hotchkiss a close third at 79 points.

After winning the 800-meter run in 2A state-record time and running the second leg of the victorious 800 relay team Friday, Celis capped her meet Saturday with another 2A state record and individual championship. She completed the 400 meters in 56.34 seconds, taking the race by six-tenths of a second.

She didn’t start her high school career focusing on the 400 and 800.

“When I was in middle school I only ran the mile and the hurdles,” she said.

During the start of her freshman year, Hotchkiss coach Kelly Cowan saw something in her that made him believe she could be strong in the 400- and 800-meter range.

“The first meet I had her in the (400 leg of the) medley,” Cowan said. “She ran, I think, a 59.9 (-second leg).”

By the second or third meet of that season, Cowan had her running the 400 and 800.

Paonia also had a strong showing in the 400, with Lindsey Russell and Ashley Van Vleet finishing fifth and seventh, respectively.

Celis anchored the Bulldogs’ 1,600-meter relay team to a second-place finish, joining Katy Parsons, Sophie Schelle and Natalie Anderson.

But it was Paonia that stole the show, leading the race from start to finish. Russell took the initiative from the opening leg. Chelsy Reed and Taylor Polson followed suit in strong style. Then, it was up to Van Vleet to bring it home.

“I was thinking state record,” Van Vleet said of her focus on the final lap.

They accomplished that in 3:58.16, finishing 2.5 seconds ahead of Hotchkiss.

“We were just ready to go,” Polson said. “We had the confidence we could do it.”

Reed said, “We just wanted to end (the meet) on a good note.”

With the race determining the state team title by a mere point, mission accomplished.

The Paonia 400 relay team of Marisa Edmondson, Easton Hartigan, Brooklynd Erickson and Morgan Hartigan came in a close second behind Akron.

Morgan Hartigan and Polson took fifth and seventh, respectively, in the girls 300 hurdles.

Hotchkiss placed third in the boys team race with 56 points, four behind Telluride. Lyons ran away with the team title with 142.5 points. Paonia finished in a tie for ninth.

The Bulldogs’ Cody Bartlett gave it everything he had in his final prep track meet. That effort was good enough for third place in the 1,600.

Bartlett was in 10th place at the midpoint.

“I asked myself, ‘Is that how you want to end your senior year?’ Definitely not,” he said.

He moved up eight spots on the third lap and put on a strong kick to move up two more in the final lap.

After winning the 800 on Friday and running legs in the preliminaries of two relays, “I’m pretty beat up,” he admitted.

Last year he ran the same events at the state meet, to which he said, “I fell apart in the 1,600.”

This year he had a little more left at the end.

Bartlett ended the day by running anchor on the 1,600 relay team, which finished third, two spots ahead of Paonia.

Hotchkiss’s Keegan Palmer, who took third Friday in the triple jump, followed that up Saturday morning with a seventh-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles.

Kelli Buhrdorf of Hotchkiss, who anchored Friday’s winning girls 800 relay, earned an individual medal by placing sixth in the 100-meter dash.


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