LAKEWOOD — No wonder Colin Morrison wants to be a pilot.
High school track coaches have contended all season that the Grand Junction High School senior can "fly."
Morrison, who posted state-qualifying numbers in six different events, jump-started the District 51 teams Thursday on the opening day of the state track and field championships.
Morrison, who had to narrow his state itinerary to four events, finished on the podium in ninth place in the Class 5A boys high jump, clearing less than his personal best. And he led a contingent of fellow D-51 jumpers who also collected state hardware Thursday.
Fruita Monument senior Cason Gisner finished third in the Class 5A triple jump.
Fruita Monument junior Kenley Kohls collected a fourth-place medal in the girls 5A high jump.
"I really am happy. I PR'd by one inch," Kohls said Thursday of her personal-record jump at Jeffco Stadium. "I hadn't been able to clear 5-4 this season. So clearing 5-5 was great for me."
Kohls said at the beginning of the year she struggled to clear 5 feet and 5-2.
"I was having trouble. Then my coach (Clay Kame) told me, 'Kenley, care less.' " Kohls said that the advice ran counter to her own intuition.
"I thought I was supposed to be all hyped up … this is like my priority," Kohls said. "But my coach … he's like no, no. If you don't think about it as much, you'll do better."
"Then, I started being really chill. I reminded myself to take it easy … to be proud of myself for what I've done," she said. "Once I figured that out, I did much better."
The bump in her high jumping at state also helped erase less than pleasant memories.
"My last two years at state were not so great," Kohls said. "That's why I'm really excited (Thursday). I'm just really happy, and I'm really grateful for my coaches."
Plus, she said, she's eager to return to state next year and jump even higher.
Alisha Davis of Grandview won the 5A girls high jump at 5-9.
Fellow Fruita Monument jumper Gisner showcased his speed and jumping ability when he unleashed an effort of 46 feet, 3.25 inches in the 5A triple jump.
He finished third, behind only Micaylon Moore (48-10) and Allam Bushara (47-1), both of Fort Collins.
"I felt like I could put more out there, but I was still happy with the results," Gisner said after accepting his third-place medal in front of the big crowd at Jeffco Stadium.
"Starting off, I felt a little rusty. But I made finals and then I felt more in the zone … and it turned out pretty good."
He said he tries to maintain his usual routine at the state meet.
"For me, it's the same thing as usual. Stay focused," Gisner said.
The Fruita Monument senior added that he especially likes the jump runways and the jumping atmosphere at the state meet.
"I love it here. The pits are great, and I like the big crowd," Gisner said with a look ahead to today's boys 5A long jump. "I've got a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I'm taking that gold home (today). I want to win that long jump."
Morrison, the multi-talented Grand Junction jumper/runner, also has a full schedule today and Saturday.
After making the podium in the high jump Thursday morning, Morrison ran the anchor leg on Grand Junction's 4x200 relay team. The Tigers advanced out of the Thursday prelims to the Saturday Class 5A finals in the event.
"I let all my anger out on that run," Morrison said with a friendly laugh. "I wasn't going to let (the high jump) hold me back."
He said he was frustrated by the high jump but happy with the Tigers' relay — and their best time of the year.
"Unfortunately, I didn't do that well (in the high jump). But I'm excited about (the relay)," Morrison said. "We have the 4x100 (relay today) and I still have the 300 hurdles," he said, adding that it was difficult to decide which four events he would enter at state.
"I also (qualified in) the 400 and the 110 hurdles," Morrison said. "I thought I would support the team because we haven't had relays go to state in a long time."
His decision paid immediate dividends with the Grand Junction 4x200 team advancing to the finals.
The Grand Junction 4x100 team will take aim at a podium finish later this weekend.
"It was really hard to choose between the different events," Morrison said. "But I think I made the right decision."
The Grand Junction senior also is an avid road cyclist, often seen pedaling with the valley's best riders at the weekly Tuesday-Thursday road rides. But not so much during track season.
"My dad got me into (road biking)," Morrison said. "It's definitely good cross-training."
Father Dale Morrison is an accomplished triathlete.
"He's big into triathlons. He's done the Ironman in Hawaii," Morrison said. "So he's gotten me into (cycling). We do Mount Evans each year. And we do the Iron Horse every year."
The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic features the Durango-to-Silverton road race — 50 miles with climbs over Coal Bank Pass and Molas Pass.
The Mount Evans Hill Climb long has been one of Colorado's iconic climbs for cyclists.
Morrison also is partial to the La Sal Loop outside Moab.
"I want to fly commercial airlines," Morrison said of his career ambitions. "My grandpa flew in the Korean War. He took me up once, and I've enjoyed it every since."
He's taken flights with the Colorado Civil Air Patrol and has done work with the Colorado Flight Center.
"Flying is truly amazing," said Morrison, who is considering flight training at Colorado Northwestern in Rangely.
"CMU just recently offered me some money for track, so I have to consider my options," Morrison said, adding that wherever he goes to college he'll take his bicycle.
Morrison teamed with Kade Christensen, Ky Oday Jr., and Austin Hille in the 4x200 relay.
Christensen, another Grand Junction senior, qualified for the 5A state finals in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. He'll race for the podium in those finals Saturday.
Oday, only a freshman, advanced to the 400-meter finals in 5A with a personal-best time of 49.10.
Fruita Monument freshman Kristin Cook also qualified for the 5A finals in the 100 and 200.
Palisade long jumper Cassidy Bittner reached the podium Thursday with an eighth-place finish in the Class 4A girls long jump (16-5.25). The junior also qualified for the finals of the 100-meter hurdles.
Palisade's Carl Cox placed fourth in the 4A discus (152-2).
Also for Palisade, Jacob Mattingley qualified for the finals of the 110-meter hurdles.
In 3A, Grand Valley's Justin Andrews and Rifle's Duke Brady were fifth and seventh in shot put, respectively. On the girls' side, Hannah Sterns of Delta placed second in the high jump.
In 2A girls action, Paonia and Plateau Valley each performed well in the 4x800 relay, placing third and eighth, respectively.
Paonia finished second in the boys 4x800 relay.
Paonia's Ethan Bartlett finished seventh in the 3,200-meter run.
Paonia's Harley Ewert qualified for finals in the 400.
In the girls 3,200, Caprock Academy's Ashleigh Gardner finished fourth and Plateau Valley's Rebecca Hittle was fifth.
In the girls 400 dash, Hotchkiss' Kaiya Firor qualified for the final.
Also on Thursday, the De Beque girls took the first step toward a possible 1A state team title by winning the 800 sprint relay. For the De Beque boys, Nando Candelaria finished fourth in the long jump.