Running the hurdles is a team sport at Palisade High School.
The Bulldogs individually showcased their hurdles teamwork Friday on the first day of the Multi-League Championship Track Meet at sun-soaked Stocker Stadium.
Palisade junior Cassidy Bittner won her qualifying heat in the 100-meter hurdles and advanced to today's finals with the fastest time (15.89 seconds) for the Class 4A Western Slope League and the 5A Southwestern League.
Palisade freshman Gabby Horton was the top qualifier in the 300-meter hurdles (46.34). Teammate Bittner also advanced to today's 300 hurdle finals with the third-best qualifying time (47.92).
Palisade's Alesia Yanowich posted the sixth-best time in the 100 hurdles at 17.38; she'll also race in today's 100 hurdles finals at Stocker Stadium alongside Bittner.
"My teammates have been pushing me so hard this year," said Bittner, who qualified for the state championships last year in the 300 hurdles. "Gabby (Horton) has been pushing me so much in the 300, and that's so nice."
She said the Bulldogs thrive on teamwork in practice, even in the general workouts.
"There are so many fast people on the team who push me in the workouts, and that really helps," she said, with a nod to the coaching staff.
"And my coaches have been helping me so much," she said. "Like in the 100s, I've improved a lot, and that's because of the coaches."
Bittner set a personal record (PR) in the 100 hurdles Friday, with an eye on qualifying for state in both hurdle races.
"For sure … it's so nice to see us all succeed out here," Bittner said. "We're pushing each other in practice, and it's all worth it."
Bittner will race in the finals of both hurdle races today. She'll also compete in the long jump and the 4x100 relay.
"Cassidy, yes she does a great job (leading the hurdlers)," Horton said. "It's a lot of hard work at practice."
The workouts, Horton said, are more intense with teammates like Bittner.
"It's a lot better than doing it by yourself," the Palisade freshman said. Horton is the daughter of former Grand Junction standout Jason Horton, who went on to compete for the University of Colorado (as a hurdler).
Palisade head coach Lanton Kame, who came out of retirement to help out the Bulldogs this season, said the hurdlers work well together.
"They feed off each other; they get ideas from each other," Kame said. "They even coach each other."
Bittner, the upperclassman, sets the tone.
"She is work, work, work all the time," Kame said. "(Cassidy) has the most phenomenal work ethic you can imagine."
He said that Bittner stayed late at practice Thursday, working on technique.
"I looked over, and right there beside her was Alesia (Yanowich), still working," he said.
Kame, a longtime coach at Central before his retirement a few years ago, credited former Palisade coach Tim Reetz with establishing a solid foundation for the Palisade hurdlers. Reetz, a former national collegiate hurdling champion, is now coaching at Colorado Mesa University.
"I'm just following on what he built," Kame said, adding that the Palisade track workouts match the Reetz workouts of the past.
That means Monday is hill day — Mount Garfield day for the Bulldogs.
Tuesday is technique day.
Friday and Saturday are race days.
"They love to race; they love to practice," Kame said. "There's no complaining about workouts."
He also credited volunteer coach Bronte Smith, a former University of Memphis hurdler.
Her technique work, boosted by video study, has helped all the Palisade hurdlers, according to Kame.
"They are so wired to the video world," Kame said. "They are so used to watching themselves. That's why the learning curve can just go up and up."
The Multi-League Championship Meet in Grand Junction, which continues today, also features the league championships for the Class 3A Western Slope League as well as the 1A/2A Western Slope League and San Juan Basin League.
All times and distances are eligible for state-qualifying consideration. The top 18 in each event in each classification qualify for state.
In event finals staged Friday, Central senior David Cardenas won the 3,200 in the combined Southwestern League/4A Western Slope League race. He dueled with Glenwood Springs runners Henry Barth and Gavin Harden before easing away on the final of eight laps.
He finished in 9:31.45, well within the 5A state qualifying marks.
Barth, second in the race, was the Western Slope League champion (9:34.96).
Tristian Spence of Central won the SWL girls 3,200 title in 11:44.77. Jadyn Heil of Fruita Monument was second with teammate Mekenzie Clark third.
Palisade's Morgan Sellden won the Western Slope League title in the shot put (35 feet, 3 inches) with teammate Elizabeth Hawkins fifth.
For the Southwestern League, Keli Drye of Montrose won the shot put (40-6) with Aiga Petelo of Fruita Monument second (36-3) and Kenzie Younker of Grand Junction third (35-11).
In the boys 800 meters, Aidan Fitzgerald of Durango won the SWL title in 1:55.90 with teammate Marcus Flint second. MacGinley Zastrow of Fruita Monument placed third (1:59.49). Central's Cardenas, with the state's leading time entering the weekend, did not race in the 800 Friday.
Durango's Bekah Moenning won the girls 800 (2:17.47). Teammate Madeleine Burns was second with Kylee Quarnberg of Fruita Monument third (2:55.59).
Corben Miller of Central won the SWL discus (153-7). Chance Pardita and Kaeden Abbott of Fruita Monument were second and third, respectively.
Kenley Kohls, also of Fruita Monument, finished second in the SWL girls high jump (5-2). Durango's Alyssa McConnell won (5-4).
Alex Hise of Durango won the SWL long jump Friday (21-11). Cason Gisner of Fruita Monument was second (21-9). Ezekial Nunn, also of Fruita, was third (20-6.75).
The Multi-League Championship Meet will resume today with events starting at 8 a.m.