Tigers on the fast track

Grand Junction’s Jill Payne earned praise from her coach for her performance in last weekend’s Frank Woodburn Invitational. Despite finishing second in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, the sophomore continued to lower her times. Payne finished second to Moffat County’s Kayla Pinnt, the 3A state runner-up in all the sprint races at state last year.

Jill Payne’s emergence as one of the area’s best female sprinters brought several wins in recent weeks in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

At last weekend’s Frank Woodburn Invitational girls track and field meet, however, the Grand Junction sophomore settled for second in both races, which was nothing to get upset about. One of Class 3A’s premier sprinters was holding court at Stocker Stadium.

Moffat County sophomore Kayla Pinnt, the 3A state runner-up in the 100 and 200 last year, won the 100, 200 and 400.

“Jill did an awesome job of hanging with her,” Tigers track coach Sean Henry said.

He also praised senior Ashley Long, who was fifth in the 100 and seventh in the 200.

“I told Jill and Ashley this was our peak training week, and they’re dropping their times down,” Henry said. “Our hardest week of training, and they’re still getting faster. That’s awesome.”

Really big — and fast?

Grand Junction senior Quinton Walton set personal bests in the shot put and discus last weekend, placing third in each event at the Woodburn Invite.

That was a highlight of the meet for Henry, but what the coach really enjoyed about Walton’s meet was putting the big man — he was listed at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds in football — in the 100-meter dash.

“He loved it,” Henry said. “He took that well. A thrower in a speed suit is an amazing thing.”

Henry also proudly reported, “He didn’t take last.”

Better than that, Walton finished in 13.15 seconds, putting him ahead of 10 other sprinters.

Better handoffs, better times

Also burning up the track for Grand Junction was its girls 400-meter relay, which won in 50.22 seconds in the first time together for Payne, Long, Megan King and Sydni Brandon.

Their time is the 12th best in the state, regardless of class, so far this spring, and Henry thinks the quartet can make a run at the school record, which he said is 49.5 seconds.

Times tend to come down as the weather gets warmer and the athletes round into peak condition, and Henry said the Tigers have another time-reducing factor: assistant coach Darrell Simonton.

“Where we bring our times down is the handoffs, and Coach Simonton keeps them working those handoffs over and over and over,” Henry said.

Longer run, same result

Another eye-popping result Saturday came from Hotchkiss senior Jennifer Celis, Class 2A’s record holder in the 400 and 800.

The Oklahoma State-bound Celis didn’t run either at the Woodburn. Instead, she ran the 1,600 and clocked a 5:18.21 to win by 14 seconds.

That ranks 20th in the state this season, regardless of class, and more impressively it was her first time running the race this season, and she ran it just once last year,

Celis certainly is capable of running distances, though, having placed fourth twice in the 2A girls cross country state meet.

“She kind of surpassed what we thought she would run today,” Hotchkiss coach Kelly Cowan said Saturday. “We haven’t really been training for the 1,600. She opened up on the third lap, and we knew it was going to be a good time.”

Cowan said it’s likely Celis will run the 1,500 in college.

Put him anywhere

Palisade sophomore Jay Shuman’s versatility was on display when he placed second in the 110 hurdles, fourth in the long jump, fifth in the 300 hurdles, and he ran a leg on the third-place 400 relay at the Woodburn.

“Jay’s one of our horses. When we need a relay, we put him in it. He’s a stud,” said Palisade coach Tim Reetz, whose boys won the team title Saturday.

Trying to beat the best

Cedaredge has the premier thrower on the Western Slope in junior Austin Williams, whose toss of 56-7.5 in the shot put is the state’s longest, regardless of class, so far this season.

Palisade has two good throwers of its own, with Brandon Worley in the shot put and Leo Gallegos in the discus, but the Woodburn titles in both events easily went to Williams.

Still, having him at the meet motivates the Bulldogs, as Reetz said, “That’s all our kids focus on is: Beat him.”

The quieter the better

Palisade sophomore Greta Van Calcar ran to an easy victory in the girls 3,200 at the Woodburn, winning by 25 seconds, meaning she didn’t hear anything to make her nervous in the final few laps.

“When I can hear someone breathing behind me, I know I’m going too slow and to pick it up,” she said.

Tracking the results

Josh Guddat and the crew who compile the results from the track meets at Stocker Stadium provided up-to-the-minute results during the Woodburn Invite, and the first time went so well, they will do it the rest of the season in meets at Stocker Stadium, Guddat said.

Go online to stockerstadiumtrack.wikispaces.com to follow the Phil Wertman Invite on April 18, the Tiger Invite on May 3 and the Southwestern League Championships on May 10.

Winning wasn’t everything

Paonia surprised coach Brian Mitchem by winning the girls title at the Woodburn. When he was told the Eagles had won, he said he had no idea. He was focused instead on getting his athletes on the bus back to Paonia.

The win was nice, but it wasn’t what the Eagles came to Grand Junction to accomplish. Rather, Mitchem sought improvement from his athletes.

“When we come here, there’s the drop in elevation, and we usually get warmer weather,” Mitchem said. “We want the kids to relax, have fun on the track and have better times and distances. And we did that. We had a lot of personal bests and season bests today.”

His girls squad will look to repeat as the 2A team champion, but at this point, Mitchem said, “I look at Hotchkiss as the favorite because they didn’t lose anything. But we’re definitely in the hunt.”

Just call her a winner

I tend to ask athletes to spell their names even when I think I know how to spell them.

That practice led to this revelation Saturday: There is no Abi Grace McGee.

Rather, that outstanding hurdler for the Montrose girls track team is Abby Grace McGee.

All of the track results The Daily Sentinel has received in the past two seasons have listed her first name as Abi.

McGee laughed and said the misspelling didn’t bother her. She added Abi makes sense if it’s short for Abigail, but her first name is Abby.

She said her family has had some fun with Abi, saying it looks like it could be a Middle Eastern spelling. The McGees, however, are Scotch-Irish.

Her teammates, by the way, call her A.G.


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