A weekend to shoot for state berths
GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado Glenwood Springs track and field coach Blake Risner has much invested in this weekends Western Slope League championships.From the moment he learned the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) intended to switch to a rankings system in determining 4A and 5A state qualifiers, he wanted this meet to be special. This is the time of year his Demons would normally be gearing up for the Western Slope Regional, where, in the past, 4A and 5A athletes would chase down the top-three finishes that netted them state-meet seeds.Well, regional meets are no more for 4A and 5A schools throughout Colorado. State berths are now awarded through a rankings system. Marks achieved at any meet that fulfills specific qualifying standards are compiled by a company called VarVee during the course of the season. Athletes who rank in the top 18 in each event at Saturdays end advance to the May 14-16 state meet in Lakewood.That means Risners Demons and athletes from the seven other 4A WSL schools will more or less be racing against the clock at Friday and Saturdays league championships, trying to crack the top 18 at Grand Junctions Stocker Stadium. Its their last chance to do so.And Risner and his Western Slope coaching colleagues are doing everything in their power to ensure that this weekends league meet is about more than just times. They want it to be something grand, something to end the local season with a bang.With CHSAA taking away big opportunities for the smaller schools, we want to make this meet as special as we can for the kids, the longtime Glenwood coach said. Weve had a lot of talk about the meet from the coaches. We agreed that all eight schools will pump the meet up.Friday and Saturday could prove mighty meaningful for Risner and the Demons, who currently have athletes or relay teams ranked in the top 18 in 20 events. Glenwoods girls are also the two-time defending regional champs and runaway favorites to add a league title this weekend.We have a lot of goals, Risner said. We want Glenwood Springs to win boys and girls championships.He also wants to see his Demons maintain or better their standing in the rankings. With as deep a squad as Risners ever had, both goals certainly seem attainable.Even though his team wont lose much state representation at the hands of the rankings system, Risner wishes the old regional format were still in place.I wont lie to you. Were very fortunate to have quite a talented group of kids, he said. I feel for some of the schools on the Western Slope at the 4A level who arent as fortunate. They would have qualified eight to 10 because of going top three. Now they might get two or three.Regardless, Risner insists, the weekend will go down as a special one.We want to make it meaningful, he said. And it certainly is. Its the league championships. Its about who will be remembered, who will go down in history, who will be all-league performers.
The 3A Western Slope Regional, in which local schools Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork and Grand Valley will participate, is fully intact and will run concurrent with the 4A WSL meet Friday and Saturday at Stocker Stadium.The Mesa State College facility will be a busy place this weekend, with the 2A regional and 5A Southwestern League meets also gracing the lineup.Top-three regional finishes net state berths for 2A and 3A athletes, who can also qualify by meeting set pre-qualifying standards.Coal Ridges Chelyn McCain (girls 100- and 300-meter hurdles) and Bradey Gasaway (boys 300 hurdles) have already pre-qualified for the May 14-16 state meet in Lakewood. Erin Vanderpool (girls 100 hurdles), Colton Cowan (boys 110 hurdles), Brandi Krieg (girls 1,600 and 3,200), Omar Melendrez (boys 200) and Jared Tonder (boys 300 hurdles) have done so for Grand Valley, and Tyler Thompson (boys long jump, triple jump) and Jon Araujo (boys discus) from Roaring Fork already have their tickets to state punched.
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