Athletes eye state meet at Rifle Invite |

Athletes eye state meet at Rifle Invite

This is not just a regular track meet.

With three weeks left in the regular season, Saturday’s Rifle Invitational has been red-circled by many of the athletes from the 15 participating schools scheduled to line up at Bears’ Stadium.

The hook which makes the Rifle meet extra-special is it gives competitors a chance to prequalify for May’s state championship, rather than hope for a top-three finish at next month’s regionals in Grand Junction.

Host Rifle is a prohibitive favorite for a run at capturing the boys and girls team titles, but, they should get a stiff challenge from other Western Slope rivals in both divisions.

The Bear boys, ranked 10th in the latest Class 4A Rocky Preps state poll, will be pushed by No. 7 Montrose and Eagle Valley, currently No. 1 in the Class 3A state rankings.

Rifle is unranked in the latest girls state track poll, but, has earned back-to-back team runner-up titles in their last two meets.

Top teams in the girls meet include Glenwood Springs, No. 6 in 4A and Hotchkiss, the No. 1 squad among Class 3A teams.

Other schools scheduled to be on-hand Saturday include Delta, Fruita Monument, Grand Junction Central, Moffat County, Palisade and Roaring Fork.

Along with the team challenge, there will be a plethora of individual showdowns that merit interest.

In the jumping pit, Glenwood’s Chris Benson could square off against Roaring Fork’s James Leonard in either the long or triple jump, then take on the Rams’ Tommy Joiner in the in high jump.

Benson has a 41-foot, 4-inch mark in the triple jump this season and has cleared 6 feet in the high jump. Leonard has a 19-21⁄2 best in the long jump. Joiner won last week’s Demon Invitational with a 6-2 mark in the high jump and has a best of 19-1 in the long jump.

Another competitor in line for a shot at a gold medal in the jumps will be Rifle’s John Alderson, who served notice with a 41-1 mark in the triple jump last week.

Rifle and Glenwood is among the state leaders in the boys 4×100 and 4×200 relays, respectively. In the longer distances, the Bears have clocked a 3 minute, 40.55 4×400 relay time and Roaring Fork’s 4×800 relay team has posted a time under 9 minutes.

On the girls side, Glenwood is strong in the sprint relays, while Rifle holds control in the 4×400 and 4×800 relays.

The Demons ran season-bests while winning the 4×100 and 4×200 relays on their home track last week. Andrea Vincent, Leah Hinkey, Amber Sutherland and Nicole Wagner ran in both events and the team finished with times of 55.77 and 1:49.89, respectively.

Sutherland is also worthy of watching in the field events.

The Demon senior has the second-best marks in Colorado among 4A girls in the shot put (38-2 1/4) and discus (120-7). She faces challenges from Palisade’s Krysten Hayes and Jill Lloyd of Fruita Monument in both events.

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