Eagle seniors make last meet one to remember

By Eric Goold

The Eagles seniors finished their careers undefeated at state.

After claiming their fourth consecutive 2A state track title last Saturday in dominating fashion, the six seniors from Paonia basked in the bright evening sunshine at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood and reveled in the celebration.

Taylor Carsten, Ashley Van Vleet, Chelsea Meilner, Marisa Edmondson, Emily Clawson and Chey Christian left a legacy of victory at Paonia that might not ever be equaled.

"This is one of those moments I am never going to forget," Meilner said. "Being with these girls for four years and just seeing the greatness that comes out of a small town like Paonia. We've faced some adversities but we've come out all the stronger for it. It's been really amazing."

Meilner was a standout cross country runner and distance runner for the track team. She leaves Paonia as a four-time state champ and winner of the prestigious Boettcher Scholarship bound for the Colorado School of Mines.

"Paonia just expects greatness, and I think that's something that was instilled in us when we were little," Meilner said. "We hit those golden years in Paonia where we're academically strong, we're strong in athletics and I think we expect to win and we expect to go out and do great things. And so we do."

Carsten finished eighth in the shot put and second in the discus at the state meet.

"I think a lot of our success comes from training," Carsten said. "We train hard in the weight room every day and go to practice and train hard there too, so I think that helps with our depth a lot."

Like all of the seniors, Carsten was part of a core group of girls that excelled in multiple sports for Paonia and achieved a high-water mark of success for the Eagles.

"I don't see how it can get any better," Carsten said. "We went to state four years in volleyball, three years in basketball, and now we've won the state championship four years in track. That's pretty good."

Ashley Van Vleet won the high jump at state, finished second in the 300 hurdles and was a key member of the relay teams. She will go on to the next level and will run track at Idaho State next year.

"It was amazing," Van Vleet said, breathless after the win at state. "I'm just blessed with the team, blessed with the people that came in and worked so hard to get to where we are. We all came out and performed hard and I'm just so proud of my team in general."

Two words perfectly describe the Paonia senior class.

"Heart and commitment," Van Vleet said. "We're always working. We're always trying to get better. That's what makes the difference for us. We give what we got. We're happy with our best, but when we reach our best, we work harder to go further."

Edmondson, a sprinter and vital member of the relay teams, got the final word in about the four-time state champs.

"We had some stellar performances. A lot of kids stepped up. I'm so proud of all of these girls right now," Edmondson said. "This is my senior year, I've been up here four times, and I have four golds. That's pretty cool. It was just a killer year."