12 headed to state championships
by Than Acuff
With just 25 athletes on their team and the usual spate of spring distractions (injuries, AP testing, April break, prom), coaches Laura Daniels and Anne Weise were constantly juggling relays and open events in an effort to get their young Titans team training, experience and an opportunity to qualify for the state championships. And once the final numbers were in after the Last Chance Invitational Saturday, May 13 in Monte Vista, 12 Titans will be headed to the big show.
“To take 12 athletes out of a 25-person team is awesome,” says Daniels.
The top 18 in each event from throughout the state qualify for the state championships and the Last Chance Invitational was just that, one last opportunity for Titans to make the cut. The tough part is that the same is going on at meets throughout the state, and while some Titans were ranked high enough to punch their ticket to state, a handful of others were still in a battle for one of the final 18 spots.
As a result, the Monte Vista meet was a roller coaster of emotions for both coaches and athletes.
“It was one of those amazing days in sports—epic highs and devastating lows,” says Daniels.
The final event of the day proved to be one of the epic highs for the Titans as the girls 4×400-meter relay team of Keely Olson, Malia Olson, Sydney Petersen and Maria O’Neal lined up as a team for the first time all season.
Due to the previously mentioned spring distractions, the four girls had never been able to run the 4×400 together. Yet, based on their efforts in the open 400 throughout the season, Daniels had an idea they could thrive. The last remaining question for Daniels was, after all four girls had spent the day competing in numerous other events, would they be ready for their last chance?
In the end they blew Daniels and the competition away, despite “horrible handoffs,” winning the 4×400 in Monte Vista with a time of 4:17, setting a new school record. They’re headed to state as the fourth ranked 4×400 team in 2A.
“They all had a full day already and I was astounded they didn’t cave,” says Daniels. “It was so cool to watch and you could see that they felt it.”
The four girls also had standout performances in their individual events. Petersen and O’Neal were already guaranteed spots at state in their respective individual events but kept their pace steady in Monte Vista as O’Neal placed third in the 400 meters and second in the 800 meters and Petersen won the 1,600 meters and took third in the 800 meters.
Keely made the most of the last chance opportunity in the 300 hurdles. She came into Monte Vista on the cusp and set a new personal record to place third and make the cut for the state championships.
“For a freshman to make it to state in a technical sprint event is pretty incredible,” says Daniels, “especially considering we don’t have a track to train on.”
Keely tacked on a sixth-place effort in the 100 hurdles and Malia scored team points with an eighth-place finish in the 300 hurdles, as did Emilie Elkins in the high jump. In the end the Titan girls team finished the meet third out of 18 teams.
On the boys side of things, Josh Merck set personal record times in the 100 meter, the 200 meter and the 400 meter races in Monte Vista and when the seedings were determined, he moved up into the top 18 in both the 200 and 400 and will be headed to state to compete in four different events.
Tate Young closed out the regular season in top form as well with a fifth-place finish in the triple jump and was a part of the fifth-place 4×400 meter relay team with Merck, Sully Marshall and Tristan Davis and the winning 4×800 meter relay team with Marshall, Woody Martineau and Joe Coburn. As a result, Young will also be toeing the line in four events at state.
“For him and Josh to qualify in four events as sophomores is extraordinary,” says Daniels.
Coburn placed third in the mile and fourth in the two-mile in Monte Vista and Martineau took fourth in the mile. And while Martineau and Coburn are in at state on relay teams, they fell just shy of hitting the top 18 statewide in their individual events. Fortunately, with Martineau a junior and Coburn a sophomore, they both will have another shot next year.
“The stars just didn’t align,” says Daniels. “I know they tried their hardest. It just wasn’t their day, luck of the draw. I’m really proud of them for laying it all out there.”
Marshall is the final ingredient for the relay teams at state in both the 4×400 and the 4×800.
“Sully is just dropping time like it’s a bad habit and is the linchpin on both relays,” says Daniels.
While Daniels is happy to have almost half of her team make it to state, she is especially proud of the entire team and how they finished the season in Monte Vista. She touts the efforts of Titans such as Annaliese Chain, Charlie Cox and Hope Freeman, to name a few, who made huge strides all year long.
“We had a really positive vibe in Monte Vista and everybody was bought in,” says Daniels. “I’m really pleased with how they all have grown and how committed they were all season. They were always there for the team.”
Now, it’s all about relaxation for the state championships.
“The work is done,” says Daniels. “We will rest them hard, try to get them to sleep as much as humanly possible, eat well, stay healthy and don’t play Ultimate in a rocky field.”