Van Calcar shines for Palisade girls

Bailey McCall from Palisade High School eyes her landing spot Saturday in the girls long jump at the Frank Woodburn Invitational at Stocker Stadium.

It’s been a frustrating spring for Palisade High School sophomore Greta Van Calcar, who can’t help but wonder which leg ailment will afflict her next.

Achilles tendinitis in her right leg cost her most of the winter for training. Then, after the first track meet of the season, plantar fascitis in her right foot and a left-hip ailment sidelined her for several weeks.

Saturday, though, she made a triumphant return to the track, winning the 3,200-meter run at the Frank Woodburn Invitational girls track and field meet.

Afterward, she wore a smile no one could miss, thanks to her bright pink lipstick.

“I never wear it around,” she said of the lipstick, but she wanted to have a little fun in a season sorely lacking it to this point. “It’s kind of a distraction tactic. I thought I’d try it.”

She didn’t look distracted as she put nearly half the track between herself and strong 3,200 runners Natalie Anderson of Hotchkiss and Delta’s Mykayla Music. Van Calcar won in 11 minutes, 41.58 seconds, 25.11 seconds ahead of Anderson.

Van Calcar hoped for a time of 11:30, but the win was a nice start as she tries to salvage a season she doubts can be the follow-up she envisioned after placing second in the 3,200 and fifth in the 1,600 in last year’s Class 4A state meet.

“I’m just going to try to make it a fun season,” she said. “My injuries are better, but they’re not going away, so it’s been a really frustrating start of the season. ... I’m not going to get the times I want, because I’m so far behind on my training. ... I’m still going to try my hardest.”

Van Calcar was a rarity in the girls meet: a District 51 athlete who finished first as schools such as Paonia, which won the meet, runner-up Cedaredge, fourth-place Montrose, and fifth-place Delta made their presences felt.

Grand Junction, though, won two events in placing third with 73 points, 18 behind Paonia.

Sydni Brandon won the long jump by surpassing 16 feet for the first time, and Brandon was joined by Megan King, Ashley Long and Jill Payne on the winning 400 relay. Payne added runner-up finishes in the 100 and 200, and Madison Marsh was second in the high jump.

New to the long jump this year, Brandon was getting frustrated by her inability to break the 16-foot mark.

“It was a big thing, breaking 16, because I was stuck in a hole at 15,” Brandon said. “In the prelims I kept hitting 15-9, 15-10. Then, when I hit 16 in the finals, I was like ...”

Instead of word, Brandon offered a fist pump.

She also anchored the winning 400 relay and said she and her teammates were excited about their time: 50.22 seconds.

“Last year it was hard for us to get a time like that,” she said, “so to do it in our first time together (this season) is awesome. And we have so much room to improve.”

Montrose had a double winner in Abby Grace McGee, who won the 100 hurdles in 15.86 and the 300 hurdles in 48.08 seconds.

A fourth-place finisher in the 4A state meet in both races last year, McGee has work to do to reach her best times of last season, but she’s happy with the pace she’s on.

“I’m ahead of where I was at this time last year,” she said. “You’re never going to be 100 percent happy. You’re always going to want to be a little bit better.”


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