Garfield County track stars taking talents to Division I following state track championships

Coal Ridge High School senior Mikayla Cheney turns the curve during a practice before the state track meet.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Two Garfield County track stars, Coal Ridge’s Mikayla Cheney and Glenwood Springs’ Sophia Connerton-Nevin, will take their talents to two well-respected Division I collegiate programs following this weekend’s Colorado High School Activities Association Track and Field State Championships.

Earlier this week, Connerton-Nevin signed her National Letter of Intent to attend San Diego State University.

A two-sport athlete, but choosing to strictly focus on track and field during her senior year, Connerton-Nevin’s decision paid off, clocking the 14th best time (11:29.35) in the 3200-meter event throughout the state to earn herself a trip to the state championships.

On Thursday morning, she competed in the Class 4A girls 3200-meter race, but was unfortunately unable to finish the race in a field that saw Niwot’s Addison Ritzenhein take the win in 10:30.05 followed by a slew of runners who came in under 11 minutes. 

It was Connerton-Nevin’s first year competing in the state 3200-meter race, but she has qualified in two of her previous three years of high school in the shorter distance events (800 and 1600 meters; with her freshman year stripped due to COVID-19). She expressed her excitement after her Tuesday signing to compete at state one last time.

“I’m going into the event excited to see what I can do, just because I’m so new to the event,” Connerton-Nevin said. “I’ve only run the 3200 three times during high school and I know it’s going to be a competitive event.”

Connerton-Nevin also said she is excited to kick start her college career starting in August. With offers to run at the University of Southern California, as well as California Polytechnic State University, Connerton-Nevin said it came down to what felt like the right fit.

“Everything from the coaching to the campus just felt like it was the place where I wanted to spend my college years,” Connerton-Nevin said. “I’m excited to get out there and experience that next level of competition and be the best I can be.”

Connerton-Nevin said she is also excited to embrace the warm weather.

Sophia Connerton-Nevin, left, with her mother Amy Connerton, signs her National Letter of Intent to attend San Diego State University on Tuesday, May 16.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Cheney, on the other hand, will be embracing the cold winters when she finds her way to the United States Military Academy West Point in New York to continue her track career.

She is set to compete in the state track championships at the 3A level on Friday and Saturday in four different events, but she actually qualified in five individual events (the 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 meters), and has been a key member of the Lady Titans relay teams.

Returning from hip surgery last May, Cheney came back strong this season, placing in the top-18 in the five events over the course of the season to qualify for the state championships. However, the Colorado High School Activities Association only allows athletes to participate in four events at the state meet.

Dropping the 200- and 400-meter races, Cheney is planning to compete in the 4×400 relay, plus the 3200-, 1600- and 800-meter races. 

“I’m really excited to have the chance to go out there and compete,” Cheney said. “It’s been a long journey this past year and I’m happy my recovery has brought me here.”

Referencing the hip surgery, Cheney said she had to forgo her fall volleyball and cross country seasons this school year for recovery purposes. Originally committed to West Point, Cheney was initially disqualified from the academy due to medical reasons. Thanks to help from her collegiate coaches, Cheney once again has an opportunity to attend the academy.

“The coaches there really fought for my acceptance and that’s really when I realized it was the right school for me,” Cheney said. 

Also considering schools such as San Diego State University and the University of Wyoming, Cheney said the environment of the school is a challenge that not only is she willing to accept, but one that helped sway her decision.

“It’s a whole new world out there,” she said. “The order, structure and leadership was something that was incredible to see and I realized that it’s something that I want to be a part of.”

With that excitement, Cheney said there are also a lot of nerves taking place before departing for boot camp on June 26.

“I do have a lot of nerves but I would consider them good nerves,” Cheney said. “For six weeks, I’ll be waking up at 5 a.m. every day. It’s going to be an interesting transition, but really it’s just the same nerves that I get when I step on the line before a track race.”

Following the state track championships, both Connerton-Nevin and Cheney are set to walk across the stage and receive their high school diplomas at their respective high school graduations on May 27.

Post Independent education and sports reporter Taylor Cramer can be reached at 970-384-9108 or

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