Mitchell: Early indicators favor area athletes
It’s kind of incredible how the Rifle Invitational track and field meet is becoming an annual early season look at some of Colorado’s top track and field contenders.
That meet took place almost a month ago on March 13 when there were track teams missing athletes who were still playing basketball. Regardless, this is the second year in a row when a Garfield County athlete has lifted himself atop the state’s leaderboard in their respective event during that meet, and plenty of other athletes the same.
What individual has pulled that top mark off this year? It’s Kaden Weller from Glenwood Springs High School.
Weller, a senior, set the state’s early standard in the 300-meter hurdles at the Rifle Invite. He posted a winning time of 38.91 seconds and is still the only hurdler in Colorado who has eclipsed the 39-second barrier in the event, according to marks posted at co.milesplit.com.
How does that bode well? This is how.
Last year at the Rifle Invite, Coal Ridge senior Andy Bowles popped off a winning mark of 6 feet, 9 inches in the high jump — an insane height for a season-opening high school meet. He didn’t meet his goal of clearing 7 feet, but he did go 6-10 and eventually won the state title in the event.
Yes, I know that you’re thinking. These are two completely different events where the only real parallels between the two is that they both require jumping. After all, Bowles only needed to clear 6-5 to win at the state meet in Lakewood and, later in the day, wound up managing a fourth-place finish in the 300 hurdles while finishing second in the 110 hurdles. And, by the way, Bowles is running track at Colorado State now.
And unlike Bowles’ high jump, it’s unlikely that Weller’s time will hold up over the course of the season. Last year, Jonathan Roy of Classical Academy won the 3A state title in the 300 hurdles in 38.67. It’s also worth noting that the year before, Glenwood senior Auston Tribble posted a blistering time of 37.74 in the 4A state final, giving Glenwood its first boys title in the event.
Regardless, it’s still one heck of a start for Weller, who isn’t the only area athlete who came away from the Rifle Invite at the top looking down.
Coal Ridge High School’s 4×800 relay team that day posted a winning time of 8:42.20, which still stands as the top time in all of Class 3A. Also setting a Class 3A standard was Basalt’s Zach Walsh, who owns 3A’s top time in the 1,600 meters at 4:26.28 but, in Rifle, posted a winning time of 4:35.07 in the event that, at the time, was the classification’s best.
What’s more, there’s others in the area who’ll compete for top spots, also. Glenwood’s boys 4×200 and 4×400 relay teams appear to be in the hunt for podium spots. The shot-put mark of 38-11 3/4 by Coal Ridge senior Britni Allen is third best in 3A, and her winning discus mark of 113-5 from the Rifle Invite ranks her fifth. Coal Ridge also has boys and girls 4×400 and 4×200 relay teams that also could be considered top contenders, and Grand Valley’s Ben Coleman will likely contend for a high podium spot in the Class 3A long and triple jumps. Rifle senior Brenden Wagler — who finished second in both the 1,600 and 3,200 to Walsh at the Rifle Invite — could be considered a distance contender in 4A.
Needless to say, the home stretch of the season looks like it’s going to be fun. It’ll be interesting to see how many of Garfield County’s athletes will come away with a gold medal of some kind.
My guess? Quite a few. After all, the early indicators seem to be right on.
Jon Mitchell is the sports editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Rifle Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-384-9123, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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