Mortensen's decision pays off

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As she crossed the finish line, Laurel Mortensen had the instinct to celebrate but she couldn't decide how to do it.

"I felt amazing and I wanted to do something," she said. "But I've always hated it when people put their arms up and I'm pretty sure I was too tired to do it if I had wanted to anyway."

The fans of the Moffat County High School senior did the celebrating for her as different versions of "way to go Laurel" could be heard throughout Jeffco Stadium after she had won the state title in the 800.

Down the homestretch, Mortensen passed, then out-kicked Westminster's Tanya Gaurmer in a finish that Hollywood couldn't have dreamed up any better.

"I had (coach Todd) Trapp's words in my head the whole way," she said. "He told me to stay with the leader until the last 300 and then go."

Gaurmer also started her kick with 300 meters left and opened up a lead of five meters at the 200 mark. Then Mortensen found her reserve.

"I just went as hard as I could," she said.

"I'm sure it wasn't very pretty down the homestretch, but it worked."

Trapp was impressed with

his athlete.

"She did exactly what I told her she needed to," he said. "It makes me look like a good coach, but great athletes do that for you."

Not bad, considering three months ago Mortensen wasn't even sure she was going to go out for track. Now the Moffat County High School senior has a state title in the 800, a school record in the event and a letter of intent signed to run for Adams State College.

"The decision whether I went out for track or not was made when I decided to run in college," said Mortensen, who didn't run track last year.

"I couldn't sign to go run and then not go out for track."

The senior told her parents at the end of the basketball season she had decided was going to join her sister, Emily, at Adams State to run cross country and track.

"I've questioned my decision to run instead of playing basketball off and on," said the two-time Western Slope Player of the Year in basketball. "I've enjoyed this track season so much it has helped me think I've made the right decision."

Mortensen's school record of 2:16.25 surpassed her sister's best, a goal she had set early in the season.

"I really look up to Emily and she's half the reason I'm going to keep running," she said. "I'm looking forward to running with her next year."

Mortensen also will be running with Gaurmer next year, a conversation that came up after the 800.

"She told me she was gong to run with my sister next year," Mortensen said. "I told her, 'me too.' So it's nice to know someone my age going there."

Gaurmer would later win the 1,600 to get her state title.

As the state meet came to an end, Mortensen was still waiting for the championship to set in.

"I look around and see others win and think, 'I did that too,'" she said. "But it really hasn't completely hit me yet."

What has hit her is her new appreciation for the sport she'll be competing in for the next four years.

"Trapp really helped us find worth in what we were running for," she said.

"I finally enjoyed a state track meet and I'm looking forward to having fun in the future as well."

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