Valley teams begin track season today at Stocker
The high school track & field season begins with a laid-back fun meet.
Central High School hosts a non-qualifying relay meet at 2 p.m. Friday at Stocker Stadium.
The four Grand Valley schools are competing along with Aspen, Delta and Rifle.
“This is a fun meet,” Central coach Lanton Kame said. “It’s an opportunity for the kids to get their feet wet.”
It includes some non-traditional relay events such as the shuttle hurdles relay. Four teams will compete at a time racing over hurdles to one end of the track, relay to another runner, who runs back down to the other end. There is a distance medley event and a 4x1600-meter relay event as well.
Kame believes the boys team will be competitive again this season, but is waiting for at least a handful of girls to join the team after basketball season ends.
“The boys team has been strong the past three years, so we have some good numbers there,” Kame said.
Some of the Warriors’ top athletes are seniors Josh Buninger (sprints), Jared Higginson (high jump), Bri Alley (sprinter), Amanda Chaffin (high jumper), Amy Kame (jumper), Jamie Pomaski (thrower), Aaron King (jumper/sprinter), Scott Davison (hurdles) and Aaron Wellway (hurdles).
“My personal expectations are to look for improvement,” Kame said. “A lot of kids surprise us and jump beyond expectations. That’s what’s cool about track.”
Grand Junction, on the other hand, will put together a solid girls team.
“My expectations for the girls is more than the boys,” Grand Junction coach Darrell Simonton said. “We have a good distance runner in Kelsey Schlassen. We have a good hurdler in Jamie (Derrieux), good sprinters in Ali Grasso and Stephanie Ryken. We just need to find some throwers.
“The boys are just young. I think our throwers are going to be better. I need to find a jumper to replace Randy and we don’t have a hurdler.”
Simonton said the Tigers are skipping the Central Relays with spring break starting this weekend. Grand Junction is scheduled to compete March 20 at the Delta Invitational.
Fruita Monument has several track & field athletes back this season, especially distance runners.
“Our distance kids are our strength,” Fruita coach Tom Goff said. “They were last year and they are all back.”
Some of the top returning distance runners are Woody Seagren, James Mauch, Keenan Widhammer, Alex Rico and John Zamora.
Some of the girls distance runners are Kasey Mortensen, Jennifer Campbell and Shelby Mixon.
Junior Olivia Daniels, who ran cross country, is out for track for the first time. She played soccer the past two years.
“It’s a lot harder qualifying now,” Goff said. “I’d like the 4x8 to qualify. I haven’t been at Fruita and it didn’t qualify.
“I’d like to qualify 15 to 20 for state. We had two kids in the 18th spot going into the last meet and ended up 19th or 20th and didn’t go last year.”
Palisade has six returning state qualifiers this season, including senior Nick Stephanus, who placed ninth in the discus.
“Our girls team is much deeper and bigger than last year,” Palisade coach Tim Reetz said. “The guys will be tough as well. We lost two big-time point getters, but everyone else is back.
“Every year, you want to be the best you can be. Our goal for the guys is top two or three in league. For the girls, it’s to improve on last year and score each meet.”
The other returning boy state qualifiers are senior Troy Gomez and juniors Devin Kenney and Rasjon Duford. Junior triple-jumper Olivia Shafer is back along with senior Amy Austin, who missed last season with a knee injury. She was a state qualifier as a sophomore in the 300-meter hurdles and two relay events.