LAKEWOOD — Coal Ridge High School’s girls 4x200-meter relay team knew where it stood headed into Friday afternoon’s final at the Class 3A State Championships. More importantly, however, it knew where it wanted to finish.
The Titans, whose best time in the event trailed behind The Classical Academy, Moffat County and Eaton prior to Thursday’s preliminaries, made sure none of that mattered during Friday’s final. Anchor leg Paige Ryan rallied from a large deficit down the home stretch to give Coal Ridge a winning time of 1 minute, 43.99 seconds, also giving the Titans a state championship after last year’s third-place finish in the event.
“Yesterday, that answer would have been yes,” Ryan said after the team was asked if it was surprised by the first-place finish. “Today, no way.”
It was the only victory of the day for the Titans as a whole, but it was the Titans’ come-from-behind style of victory that made it that much sweeter for the four team members. Amanda Wenzel, Mariela Martinez, Amber Bowles and Ryan mobbed each other at the finish line after Ryan had completed the substantial comeback, and in more ways than one.
The Titans’ top time in the girls 4x200 coming into the state meet was 1:47.47, but they managed to put together the event’s top qualifying time with a 1:44.55. Headed into the home stretch, however, TCA had a substantial lead as Martinez handed off to Ryan for the final leg.
TCA wasn’t able to hold on. Meanwhile, Coal Ridge’s team members held each other pretty tightly at the finish line after the race.
“That was the best feeling ever,” Bowles said. “It just feels so great to come from a small town and from a small school, knowing you’ve just shown everyone what you can do.”
That relay team wasn’t the only one to score points for Coal Ridge on Friday. The Titans’ girls 800 medley relay team stayed in contention for a first place finish before finishing third in 1:50.12, just two seconds behind the meet-record time of 1:48.14 posted by Eaton. In all, it left the Titans with 19.33 points at the end of the second day of the three-day meet, leaving a respectable team finish within reach by the end of the day Saturday.
The Coal Ridge boys, however, are after a little more than that.
Thanks to a third-place finish by the Titnas in the boys 4x200 final, Coal Ridge is tied with Manitou Springs for third place with 22 points. Leading the pack is Frontier Academy (35) and The Classical Academy (30).
The Titans, however, were top-half qualifiers in each of their relay preliminaries, including the 4x100 and 4x400. They’ll also have multiple individual events competing today, including Andy Bowles (300 hurdles, 110 hurdles, high jump), Trevor Kelly (110 hurdles, long jump) and Chris Contreras (100, 200 and 400 meters).
“We didn’t do too bad for a team that was just thrown together,” said Zen Gross, who ran the anchor leg of the Titans’ third-place 4x200 team that finished in 1:31.42. “This wasn’t really our A team. Really, we’re just trying to win it all.”
That didn’t keep other area teams from doing well, though.
Also competing in the 4x200 final was Grand Valley, which managed a seventh-place time of 1:33.19. Including the fifth-place finish from Grand Valley junior Ben Coleman in the triple jump on Friday, the Cardinals have a pair of state placers and will get a third today when they run in the 4x100 relay finals.
Almost making today’s finals was Kylyn Rigsby, a Grand Valley freshman. She finished 10th in the 300 hurdles in 48.77, missing the ninth and final spot in today’s event finals by just 0.05 seconds. Amber Bowles, however, had the fifth-best time in the event and reached the 300 hurdles finals for the second consecutive year.
Finals in all remaining events take place today, with field-event finals beginning at 8:30 a.m.