Rifle’s Rubalcave, Wagler ready for state track meet
The Rifle Bears will be taking a contingent of 14 athletes to this year’s state track & field meet at Jeffco Stadium in Denver, which runs this Thursday through Saturday. The number of qualifiers is up from just six statebound Bears from a year ago. Part of this is due to the fact that Rifle is competing at the 3A level this year as opposed to last season’s battles in the bigger school 4A classification. First year Rifle Head Coach Chris Bomba also attributes the boost in state numbers to a renewed interest in the track & field program in general.
“One of the differences in the numbers this year is that we have many more girls going to state. Our girls program is on the rise,” said Bomba.
Junior Sarah Wagler will be one of those girls to watch this weekend, as she will toe the line in the 1600m (1 Mile) and 3200m (2 mile) for the Bears. Last year, as a sophomore, Wagler qualified for state in the 3200m against a tough 4A field. Wagler finished 13th overall in that race, a result that has her optimistic that she can do even better this year.
“I would say that I’m pretty good at the 2 mile. It’s more my thing,” understated Wagler. “This year though, I have been trying to get better at both of my distance events. I would like to get on the podium in both events, but I’m more confident in the 2 mile.”
Wagler, who also runs cross country for the Bears in the fall, feels being in the smaller 3A classification this year has helped a tremendous amount in getting more Rifle athletes to the state meet.
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“3A has given us a better chance to bring more people to state,” said Wagler.
Another distance running ace for the Bears, representing the boys’ side of the ledger, is senior Jack Rubalcave, who recently signed to run track next year at Portland State University. Rubalcave has qualified for state in three events: The 400m, 800m, and the 1600m event.
Rubalcave, who also qualified for state last year, will give it his all to score points for the Bears in every event he is in, but the standout senior feels the 800m may give him the best chance to bring a state title back to the Western Slope.
“The focal point for me will be the 800m run on Friday,” said Rubalcave. “I think I have a shot at the state title. If everything goes as planned, and the race follows form the way I hope it will, I could get on the podium.”
As most seniors tend to do, Rubalcave has stepped up a bit more this year as a team leader for Rifle. He says it wasn’t really planned that way, he just wants to boost the team any way that he can.
“Being a leader just kind of happened. I try to do everything I can to help out the rest of the team,” said Rubalcave, whose 1 minute, 58 second time in the 800m this year ranks him fourth on the 3A list of the state’s best times.
Rubalcave has also represented the Bears in the last four state cross country meets, having qualified each year since he was a freshman.
“Jack has been very dedicated to improving himself in both track and cross country,” said coach Bomba. “He’s also worked hard this year on being a leader and a great teammate.”
Bomba, who previously coached track & field at Western State College in Gunnison, and at Cedaredge High School, echoes many of the same sentiments regarding Wagler, whom he will gladly welcome back for another year next season in her senior campaign.
“Sarah has really worked hard and has grown as an individual this year. She always pushes herself and really cares about doing a good job,” Bomba said.
Though Wagler and Rubalcave have pinpointed a particular event they feel is their strength going into Thursday’s three-day meet, Bomba feels both of his two standout Bears can achieve high marks in each and every one of their events.
“I think they both have a good chance of finishing in the top 10 in all of their events,” stated Bomba.
Only time will tell if hopes and dreams turn into the reality of podium finishes and medals for Rifle. One thing is for certain, though: Chris Bomba and his Bears will make big tracks into Jeffco Stadium to give their very best effort and showcase a Rifle program that is on the rise.
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