MEEKER I Thirteen Meeker High School athletes qualified for and competed in the 2015 Colorado State Track and Field Championships in Denver Thursday through Saturday, and more than three-quarters of them returned with medals.
Meeker senior Sydney Hughes placed in two of the four individual events she qualified for and two girls’ relay teams made it onto the podium in Jefferson County Stadium. Meeker senior Marcus Archuleta also earned a silver medal in the Geoffery Zargoza Special Olympics 100-meter dash.
Hughes qualified in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, as well as the long and triple jumps. Hughes has medaled, scoring team points at the state meet, all four years, and this year she earned a sixth place medal in the triple jump and an eighth place medal in the 300 hurdles and she was one spot out of making the finals in the 100-meter hurdles.
“Sydney is a senior who will be irreplaceable on the team,” Meeker head coach John Strate said. “Her relentless work ethic and drive to compete has been infectious to her teammates and it was nice to see her on podium one last time at the state meet.”
The girls also scored team points by placing sixth in the 4×100-meter relay and eighth in the 4×800-meter relay.
Loran Casias, Peyton Burke, Madison Russell and Halle Ahrens are the Meeker sprinters on the the 4×100-meter relay team, which qualified for the state finals on Friday by running a season-best time of 51.79.
“Although they ran slightly slower in the finals, they held on to the sixth-place position they qualified in,” Strate said. “This group has faced some adversity this season, but they ran their best when it counted. Much like the other girls’ relay that scored, they are all underclassmen and look to have a bright future.”
Part of the “adversity” coach Strate spoke of was injuries, which many team members suffered, including Ahrens, a four-time placer as a freshman. She also qualified in the 100-meter dash but did not make the finals this year.
“Halle showed a lot of courage by stepping up to the line against the best in the state when she had been out due to injury,” Strate said. “Missing the finals made her hungrier the next day in the 4×100-meter relay.”
Russell also qualified in the 200-meter dash and Burke qualified to run the 100-meter hurdles, neither advanced to the finals, but both are sophomores and gained valuable experience.
The Meeker girls’ other relay team to medal was the 4×800 meter, which consisted of Sierra Williams, Avery Watt, Julia Eskelson and Maggie Phelan, which, according to coach Strate, “ran an incredibly smart and gutsy race,” to earn their spot on the podium.
“Eskelson ran a great lead-off leg by not getting boxed in and putting the team in a spot to score,” Strate said. “Watt ran second and one couldn’t tell it was only the second 800 of her career, as she kept the team in scoring position.
Williams ran the most aggressive leg for the team. On two occasions, it looked like she was going to be passed up and pushed out of scoring position but not only did she fight to keep their spot, she closed so well with 150 meters to go that she gave the anchor, Maggie, a little breathing room.”
Coach Strate said Phelan didn’t need the extra room as she ran a personal best split, along with the rest of the team.
“They qualified with a time of 10:44 and ran a 10:31 at the state meet,” Strate said. “This group of freshman and sophomores got a taste of the podium and are hungry to move higher up next year.”
Meeker’s 4×200-meter relay team (Burke, Russell, Watt and Williams) and 4×400-meter relay team (Russell, Watt, Williams and Maggie Phelan) did not place.
The final Cowboy to stand on the state podium for Meeker was senior Marcus Archuleta, who finished second in the Geoffery Zargoza Special Olympic 100-meter dash.
“Marcus ran his way to the finish line with heart and determination, reminding those on the team and in the stands why we compete,” coach Strate said. “As Marcus has a tendency to do, he stole the show with his vibrant personality and love of life.”
Meeker’s other senior qualifier was Jake Phelan, who competed in the triple jump and scratched on a jump that would have landed him in the finals.
“Jake’s leadership and work ethic will be missed both on the athletic field and in the classroom,” Strate said. “He has been a big part of what we do and the work ethic we try to instill in the kids for the last four years.”
Junior Jake Henderson and sophomore Austin Russell both gained valuable experience at the state meet, Henderson in the 110-meter hurdles and Russell in the 3,200-meter run.
“Jake didn’t have his best race of the season, but he still only finished two places out of the finals,” Coach Strate said. “Austin ran a career best time of 10:32, he showed up in 18th place and finished in 13th. He has a bright future in the distance events.”
Coach Strate was appreciative of his coaching staff this season.
“The success we have had this year would not have been possible without a great coaching staff, many of whom are volunteers. But all give up countless hours for our kids,” Strate said. “Kris Casey, Ben Quinn, Shane Phelan, Heather Burke and Terance Casias deserve a special thank you for their time and dedication.”