Paonia wins fifth girls track championship
LAKEWOOD — There’s a long list of words that could be used to describe the girls high school track and field team at Paonia and the boys squad at Cedaredge.
Dominant. Competitive. Successful.
And for the second consecutive year, one more word describes them both: Champions.
The Paonia girls used the final events of the two-day Class 2A state championships to win the state team title for the fifth consecutive year, a feat only accomplished by two other girls teams in Colorado history. And the Bruins, who held a commanding lead in the 2A boys team standings after the first day, claimed their second consecutive state championship and fourth in school history.
Five straight titles for Paonia had special meaning.
“Every championship is special in its own unique way,” said senior Brianna Van Vleet. “But, it’s a five-peat. What can you say? We just made history.”
Paonia’s five-peat joins Mullen, which won seven in a row from 1997-2003, and Classical Academy, which put together its run from 2006-10, as the three girls teams to win at least five team titles in a row.
The Eagles were paced individually by Van Vleet, who won her third consecutive 2A long jump title with a mark of 17-8 3/4. Teammate Emily Pieper finished third (17-0) and McKenna Palmer took sixth (16-2). Van Vleet was also third in the 400 meters in 59.22 and anchored the Eagles’ 800 relay. In all, Paonia came away with six event titles.
On Sunday, Sophia Anderson placed second in the 100 and Brooke Hillman third in the 800 for the Eagles.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Paonia coach Brian Mitchem said. “You have to have the right kids, the right attitudes and the right work ethic, and all of those pieces have to come together at the right time. And you never know what you’re going to get, either. This year’s meet turned into a two-day meet, and it still worked out.”
Paonia finished with 110 points. Telluride was second with 74 and Meeker was third with 64.
The Cedaredge boys were hoping its 3,200 relay would cap their state-championship performance, but the Bruins’ team of Drew Markley, Ty Grant, Jordan McMillan and Brendon Klaseen was second in 3:31.05. Still, the Bruins’ 97 team points was well ahead of Wiggins’ 63, with Resurrection Christian taking third with 45.
Cedaredge only had two state titles, in the 800 and 3,200 relays, but its ability to find the podium in multiple events proved the difference in their lopsided victory in the team standings.
“Every single team player here had to put points in for us to win this team championship,” said Klaseen, who placed third in the 400. “Everyone had to contribute. Everyone did.”
De Beque’s girls track and field team had a strong finish of its own, placing second.
That finish came in large part thanks to sophomore Jentry Largent, who won the 100 meters in 12.90 and anchored the Dragons’ winning 400-meter relay team, which won in a state-meet record time of 51.41.
“It’s really rewarding because we’ve all worked so hard to get here,” said Largent, who teamed up with Ceiclia Landeros, Nataly Castro and Faith Novess in a relay for the second time this weekend. “And the great thing about this is that we’re all sophomores, so all of us still have a lot of room to grow.”
Novess also placed second in the high jump.
Springfield won its first girls state team championship, tallying 73.5 points. The Dragons had 57 points.
Still, De Beque coach Mike Kirschner said Sunday marked the first trophy finish in any sport for the school since 1997, when the school’s boys basketball team won the 1A state championship.
“These girls just battle,” the coach said. “They fight and compete and clawed their way into it.”
Hotchkiss sophomore Kaiya Firor won the state title in the 400 in 57.28. Firor also won 300 hurdles state championship on Saturday and her teammate, Zack Allen, tied for second in the high jump at 6-2.