In a matter of 2 minutes, 18.46 seconds, Paonia freshman Ashley Van Vleet jumped from a 40-something ranked runner to a top contender in the 800-meter run. At Friday's Bruin Invitational, she took 22 seconds off her prior best in the event to post the third-best time in state 2A competition.
Her strategy was "to pace with the girl in front of me and try to take her at the last minute," said Van Vleet who shadowed Dana Shellhorn of Montrose, the top 4A 800m runner on the Western Slope.
Van Vleet, who was one of four runners to better the meet record in the event, placed second, pushing Shellhorn to the best finish of her career.
Van Vleet is also ranked fifth in the 400m dash, and anchors two state-ranked relay teams. She holds the middle school record in the 400m and is expected to excel in that race as a freshman, "But I didn't see the (800m), I wasn't planning on running the eight."
Van Vleet said she was pushed by her oldest brother, Jordan Van Vleet, a multi-event state qualifier who holds school records in the triple jump and 1600m relay. "He pushed on me a bit," she said. "It's nice having an older brother to push on you, to motivate you."
In Friday's 1600m relay with Chelsy Reed, Lindsay Russell and Taylor Plymale, Van Vleet pushed Shellhorn again, holding a slight lead down the stretch and finishing 6/100ths of a second back to place second. The 3200m team of Reed, Plymale, Taylor Polson and Van Vleet placed second.
The girls' team scored 161 points to win the Bruin Invitational, outscoring second-place Cedaredge by 60 points. They won six events and set 5 meet records. Ce'rra Carsten set the record of 32 feet, 5 inches to win the triple jump and won the high jump at 4-9. Taylor Carsten set the record in the discus with a preliminary throw of 119-03 — the second-best distance this season in state 2A competition. And she'd just had her nails done for prom. "It's hard to throw with nails," said Carsten, who had four throws over 110 feet for the day.
Carsten holds the middle school discus record of about 98 feet, which was set from a standing position. She now uses the glide technique. "I've improved so much this year," said Carsten. "I actually set a goal of 120 and (throwing coach Scott) Rienks said we'll start with 110."
Coming in as a freshman and throwing against more experienced throwers was "... kind of scary for me, but I know that I can throw just as well as any of them, so I just relax on that." She made some adjustments to her technique this week that paid off. "This was actually one of the most stressful weeks for me. My throws were just not where I really wanted them to be. I just had to come in and relax and throw like I knew I could."
Carsten also threw the shot put just over 35 feet to place third.
Morgan Hartigan set both a school and a meet record in the shot put with a throw of 39-09.75.
In the 200m dash, senior Lindsay Russell set the meet record with a winning time of 27.05. And the sprint medley team of Brooklynd Erickson, Easton Hartigan, Marisa Edmondson and Russell set a meet record of 1:53.52. Russell also placed fourth in the 100m (13.45). Erickson and Easton Hartigan placed third and fourth respectively in the long jump.
Freshmen Dawn Jensen and Chelsea Meilner placed fourth and fifth respectively in the 1600m run, and Jensen, Meilner and Polson placed second, third and fourth in the 3200m.
Tony Darling is aiming for a second consecutive league title in the shot put. Darling threw a personal best 45 feet, 7 inches to place second at the Bruin Invitational, and remains ranked first in the Western Slope heading into this week's 2A league meet at Grand Junction.
Darling specializes in the shot put. He got a late start to the season, but if that's affected his performance, it's been negligible. He placed ninth at state in 2012, and has consistently thrown beyond 44 feet this season. He's changed his technique some from last year. "I'm gliding, not shuffling this year," said Darling, who is ranked third in state after Friday's meet. His goal is to place second, a ranking he missed by two inches on Friday. The top-ranked 2A thrower, from Eads, is throwing past the 61-foot mark.
The Paonia boys scored 56 points to place sixth at the meet. Jason Sturgis claimed his first win of the season with a time of 10:45.44 in the 3200m. Sturgis also placed fifth in the 1600m.
Taylor Walters placed fourth in the 200 (24.42) and in the long jump (19-05). Jacob Helleckson finished sixth in the 1600m, and eighth in the 800m.
Josiah Spano set a personal best time of 53.56 to place fourth in the 400m. Jeramiah Hillman finished fifth in the 800m (2:05). Both ran on the 800m relay team that placed fifth.
"It's been a good day," said head coach Brian Mitchem, who is looking at his fifth consecutive girls' league title and sixth consecutive boys' title next week at Grand Junction. With several athletes either qualified for state or "on the bubble" in the top-18 rankings, Mitchem said he has a few problems to figure out, but those are good problems to have. "Today answered a lot of questions," said Mitchem at the end of Friday's meet. "Today solidified a lot of things."blog comments powered by Disqus