Titanic champs: Coal Ridge track and field girls team gets first state title in school history

The Lady Titans 4×400 meter relay team members congratulate one another.
Cody Jones / Post Independent

It’s been 27 years since Garfield County has had a Colorado state track and field title to call its own. On Saturday, that drought came to an end with the Coal Ridge girls track team hoisting the 3A state championship trophy high above their heads for everyone to see as they were crowned state champions.

Head coach Ben Kirk said the possibility of the girls winning the title occurred to the coaches about a month ago.

“We met as an entire girls team and told them if we are going to win the state title then Peyton Garrison and Mikayla Cheney need to run their individual events,” he said. “The rest of the responsibility fell on everyone else stepping up, and the girls took ownership of this responsibility and had great races.”

The Lady Titans had great races across the board from the main point scorer in Garrison to the rest of the team fighting for every single point they could get to elevate them more in the team standings. Garrison completed the triple crown of the sprinting events by winning the 100-meter (12.38), 200-meter (25.02) and 400-meter dash (56.23).

“I’ve been running since the seventh grade and been working hard to make this big dream of mine a reality. Winning all three of my events feels amazing.” Garrison said after earning her third individual state title. “After I run 4×400, I am going to celebrate by giving a big hug to all my amazing teammates and coaches.”

The Coal Ridge girls track team poses with the 3A state championship trophy high for everyone to see as they were crowned state champions in track and field Saturday. Cody Jones / Post Independent

Garrison went on to help the 4×400 meter relay team place first at the conclusion of the meet. The team comprised Natalie Smythe, Cheney, Jackie Camunez and Garrison on the anchor leg. When Camunez handed the baton off to Garrison, the race was quite close, with the Titans having only a few meters on Berthoud and the Classical Academy, but Garrison put it into her top gear and opened up a 20-meter gap to give the Titans the 4×400 meter title.

Garrison wasn’t the only one who contributed a large number of points to the Titans state championship performance. In the distance events, Mikayla Cheney, who used to run sprints, placed first in the 800 (2:15.23) and second in the 1600 meter run (5:04).

The Titans also dominated the throwing and jumping events. Taylor Wiescamp placed second in the shot put (39-00) and third in the discus (115-06). In the pole vault, Phoebe Young vaulted 11-06, which was enough to tie her for the bronze medal in the competition.

In terms of relays, the lady Titans placed second in the 4×100 (Camunez, Raeanna Nelson, Young and Railey Largent), fifth in the 4×200 (Camunez, Nelson, Smythe and Largent), and seventh in the 4×800 (Taylee Richards, Araceli Ayala, Marilynn Stephens and Cheney) all without the skill Garrison brings at the short sprint events.

Coal Ridge athletes had their hands in every single aspect of the state meet: sprints, distance, throws and jumping events. Kirk credits this to the coaching staff around him, “We have coaches that are passionate and capable of coaching the girls to place high in the jump events, the distance events and the throws. This coupled with the girls’ desire to step up in order to finish as high as they can at state results in what we say today.”

Mikayla Cheney breathes a sigh of relief after being able to place second in the 1600 meter run.
Cody Jones / Post Independent

Another aspect that contributed to the Titans winning the state title on Saturday was the strong display of team culture not only at the state meet but throughout the season. Coal Ridge athletes and fans could be heard loud and proud whenever one of their fellow teammates toed the line.

A Coal Ridge athlete was always the first to give a hug or a high-five to a fellow competitor minutes after they were racing in a heated state title battle.

“I think the strong team culture just goes back to how we do things on a daily basis. We do things as a team,” Kirk said “Whether you are low talent or high talent, everyone does the same workout, and everyone wants to get better.”

The Titans’ state title is not only the first for the girls track team but is also the first for Coal Ridge, which has been established for 15 years.

“I think it’s a big deal [to win the title]. I think it shows that we are going in the right direction, and everything we did in terms of work throughout the season paid off.”

Kirk concluded by saying, “I never really thought this was possible — I knew we had a team that was incredibly talented, but it still hasn’t sunk in fully.”

As the girls descended the champions podium, shining bright, with their trophy and state banner, maybe the significance finally hit home for Kirk as he adoringly smiled over the team he just witnessed accomplish what a year ago seemed impossible.

Area School Individual Scorers (Top 9):

Glenwood Springs: Brian Delgado, 6th 400 meter dash, 50.13; Taber Uyehara, 3rd 110 meter hurdles, 15.29, 5th 300 meter hurdles, 40.67; Ella Johnson, 4th 3200 meter run, 10:58.73; Boys 4×400 relay, 8th; Girls 4×800 relay, 3rd.

Coal Ridge: Shayne Sandblom,6th pole vault, 11-0; Peyton Garrison, 1st, 100 meter, 200 meter, 400 meter dash; Mikayla Cheney, 1st 800 meter run, 2nd 1600 meter run; Marin Simons, 2nd high jump, 5-04; Phoebe Young, 3rd pole vault, 11-06; Taylor Wiescamp, 3rd discus, 115-06, 2nd shot put, 39-00; Boys 4×100 relay, 5th; Boys 4×200 relay, 8th; Boys 4×400 relay, 8th; Girls 4×100 meter relay, 2nd; Girls 4×200 meter relay, 5th; Girls 800 meter sprint relay, 2nd; Girls 4×400 relay, 1st; Girls 4×800 meter relay, 7th.

Basalt: Rulbe Alvarado, 9th, 200-meter dash, 23.00 2nd, 400-meter dash, 50.02; Sierra Bower, 3rd 800-meter run, 2:16.58, 6th 1600 meter run 5:09.79, 4th 3200 meter run, 11:11.42; Katelyn Maley, 6th 800 meter run 2:18.85, 1st 1600 meter run, 5:01.10, 2nd 3200 meter run, 11:06.31; Ava Lane 8th 3200 meter run, 11:36.26, Katie Bohannan, 4th high jump, 5-0, 7th pole vault, 9-0; 2nd girls 4×800 relay.

Rifle: Abigaile Pinkerton-Sparkman, 9th, pole vault, 8-06

Roaring Fork: Lily Nieslanik, 4th, long jump, 16-11.5

Grand Valley: Alex Mendoza, 4th 100 meter hurdles, 16.81, 5th 300 meter hurdles, 48.73; Boys 4×800 relay, 6th.

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