Moffat County track starts season off right as top teams at Clint Wells Invite
For the Craig Press
When you tell Moffat County High School track and field stars they have to wait to compete, you just know the delayed outcome will be no less successful.
MCHS athletes brought their speed, strength and springiness to win among both boys and girls teams at the Clint Wells Invitational on Friday, a home meet that was a long time coming as the track program got its first event in nearly two years underway.
With no spring 2020 sports during the pandemic and a later start than they’re used to with the newly implemented Season D, the Bulldog crew was more than ready for their first time doing something more than just preparing.
Starting the season with the home meet was an unusual change, said head coach Todd Trapp, yet one that nobody seemed to mind much.
“It was weird starting with that, but now we’ve got our hosting out of the way and we can travel,” Trapp said. “Now we can really get after it.”
A warm yet cloudy and breezy day made for conditions the program is well accustomed to at this point, given the school being one of the higher elevated points in Craig.
“We knew we’d have some wind since we’re sitting on the hillside, but at least we went half the day without it,” Trapp said. “It was perfect in the morning.”
Gone with the wind
The successful day for the hosting school began and ended with MoCo victories on the track, with the girls 800-meter sprint medley relay starting the day.
Antonia Vasquez joined Lizzy LeWarne, Sadie Smilanich and Alexis Jones in the medley.
“I was pretty nervous starting that with the baton,” said Vasquez, who ran the first of the dual 100-meter installments.
The group won the event handily at 2:01.47, nine seconds ahead of the nearest contender.
“The medley was really the highlight for me, and that 200 leg was probably the best I’ve ever ran,” Smilanich said.
That was hardly the end of it; altogether the Dogs won the 100 and 200 dash for both boys and girls — with Caleb Frink and Halle Hamilton the speediest in each, respectively, at 11.48 and 23.25 and 12.87 and 26.01 — as well as Emaleigh Papierski winning the girls 400 at 1:03.92.
While a timing error meant incomplete results for the boys 400 — worth noting that MCHS’s Nate Robinson and Hudson Jones led the field in the last completed times — Logan Hafey could console himself with a victory earlier in the day in the 110 hurdles, clocking in at 16:35.
Rounding out the wins in the individual running events, Boden Reidhead took the gold in the boys 1,600 with a 5:25.21, surpassing Hayden’s Kale Johnson late in the race.
“I really kicked on the third lap for that last 100 (meters),” Reidhead said, adding that his distance training during the fall helped him know the best time to utilize his energy.
Though the breezy conditions hurt some numbers, MCHS did just as well in the field events, with Evan Atkin winning the boys long jump at 19 feet, 11 inches, and Emma Jones getting the 10 points in the girls high jump, narrowly determined the winner at 4 feet, 8 inches with teammates Alexis Jones and Cayden King each hitting the same mark.
The Bulldogs had some of their biggest successes in the relays. Besides an uncontested boys 4×800 (10:21.53), the team won each of the 4×200 and 4×400 events for guys and gals (1:33.89, 1:49.94).
Logan Hafey said he was especially invested in making sure handoffs went off without a hitch in the 4×200 after suffering a disqualification at state his freshman year for an exchange gone wrong.
“Compared to my freshman year, we have a lot better team in that event,” said Logan, who ran it this time around with Frink, Evan Atkin and Taran Teeter.
Vasquez filled the open slot Friday in the girls 4×200, joining 2019 state champs Hamilton, Papierski and Emma Jones.
“I think that’s my favorite one,” Vasquez said, noting her desire to compete at a high level alongside older teammates after struggling with shin injuries during an otherwise promising start to the cross country season.
As the final races of the day, the 4×400 still had some of the most blue and black jerseys on the track with dual MoCo teams in each.
Emma Jones, Hamilton, Alexis Jones, and Papierski won the girls race at 4:39.62, with Evan Atkin, Teeter, Johnny Lopez and Logan Hafey winning the boys at 3:48.32.
Logan noted in relays especially, he is putting his best foot forward.
“I’ve been training hard because I have a lot of goals this year,” he said.
Down on the throwing field Friday, a mix of seasoned seniors and younger talent were competing in the discus and shot put.
Seniors Corey Scranton, Chris Sanderson and freshman Ian Hafey were close together in the boys discus, placing second, third and fourth, respectively, with Scranton’s 120’ 6” toss setting the standard for the season.
Though the Bulldog boys struggled in the shot put rankings, Scranton took eighth at 35’ 9” followed closely by Isaac Vallem at 35’ 3”.
Meanwhile, Raine Harrell rounded out the points in the shot with eighth (24’), though only Frederickson and Samantha Willems are doing both events for the girls throwing team.
In the girls discus, Billie Frederickson earned seventh as part of her first high school-level event, her 62’ 3”, a baseline she hopes to improve in the coming weeks.
“I think I like disc more than shot put, just because I have a lot more trust in myself in that,” she said. “It’s a lot to easier to improve because you use a lot more muscle in shot.”
Even in events they didn’t win outright, MCHS track picked up plenty of points, including the girls 4×800; boys high jumpers Evan Beaver, Ian Trevenen, and Hudson Jones ranked second, third and fourth; Papierski and King second and third in the girls long jump; Cayden King and Alayna Behrman second and third in girls triple jump with Hudson Jones fourth in the boys; Ian Hafey second in the 300 hurdles and Behrman third in the 100; and Owen Gifford and Bree Meats fourth in the boys and girls 800 races.
Though their teammates may have taken the win, Evan Atkin claimed the silver in the 110 hurdles and Frink the same in the long jump; Vasquez took bronze in the girls 100; Emma Jones fourth in the girls 200; Avery Atkin fourth in high jump; and Carter Behrman and Gifford fourth and sixth in the boys 800, to name a few.
With seventh place in the girls 800, Brook Wheeler said that if anything, a half-mile wasn’t long enough after regular three-mile races in the cross country season.
“I think I like cross country a little more since you’re not running in a circle, but I like that I can go faster on the track,” she said.
Emilie Schnirich was one of many in the mix trying track for the very first time. One of several foreign exchange students at Moffat County this school, her athletic endeavors back home in Germany were limited to tennis.
Besides being in the second-place 4×400 relay with Smilanich, Meats and King, Schnirich also earned fifth in the triple jump and took on the daunting 200 dash.
“You really have to be mentally fit to do track,” she said. “You have a lot of adrenaline when you’re going.”
More to come
Though the Clint Wells Invite was earlier in the season than usual and saw only seven other schools — with competing events drawing other frequent competitors — it will be followed with a schedule that will feature familiar settings like Grand Junction’s Stocker Stadium.
On the other hand, MoCo track will be in new locales this spring with events like the Steamboat Springs Invite and the inaugural Tiger/Bulldog Invite that will christen the new track in Hayden.
Trapp said he’s been pleased with the level of commitment to this year’s track season, with many athletes preparing well ahead of time to shake off the rust.
“You can definitely tell they’ve been putting in that effort,” he said.
He added that besides the usual amount of ninth-graders, sophomore athletes are technically in their freshman season after not competing in 2020.
“Those sophomore girls have been super-tough,” he said.
With plenty of seniors on the team, Jayden Mack is one of the upperclassmen who has been part of the track program throughout her time in high school, and the end of that is coming too soon.
The element of the sport she enjoys the most is the challenge to push herself individually.
“There’s teamwork in the relays, but it’s mostly about you pushing yourself,” she said. “I like to be able to work on myself without worrying about anyone else. It’s really hard, but it’s worth it.”
8 a.m., May 15 — Warrior Invitational; Grand Junction
10 a.m., May 21 — Coal Ridge Invitational; New Castle
TBD, May 24 — Delta JV Meet; Delta
3 p.m., May 27 — Phil Wertman Invitational; Grand Junction
10 a.m., June 2 — Tiger/Bulldog Invitational; Hayden
TBD, June 5 — Steamboat Springs Invitational; Steamboat Springs
TBD, June 10, 11 — Western Slope League Championships; Grand Junction
TBD, June 17, 18 — Tiger Invitational; Grand Junction
TBD, June 24, 25, 26 — Colorado State Championships; Lakewood
All events subject to change
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Transactions recorded in the month of December, 2021.