Paonia girls penta-sensational

By Tamie Meck


Paonia girls penta-sensational | track and field, PHS

Photo by Tamie Meck Brianna Van Vleet won her second consecutive state title in the long jump with a mark of 17 feet, 8.75 inches. As a junior Van Vleet set the state meet record of 18-9.5. She will compete in the Division 1 Big Sky Conference at Idaho St

If seeding was any indication, the Paonia girls track team had a shot at winning its fifth state track title by under 10 points. Instead, it dominated, Lady Eagles style, outscoring its closest competitors by 36 points to win the Class 2A state title. The Eagles are only the second team in any sport in Colorado's state history to win five consecutive team titles.

For the second consecutive year, senior Brianna Van Vleet won the long jump. She was one of three Eagles to qualify in the event. Emily Pieper placed third, and McKenna Palmer finished sixth.

Palmer, a junior, medaled in all three of her events, including the 100m hurdles, in which she placed ninth with a new personal-best time of 17.02 seconds. "I was ready for this race," said Palmer.

Palmer said she had momentum going into the hurdles after placing second in the triple jump behind top-ranked teammate Sophia Anderson. "It gave me a lot of confidence," she said.

Palmer was also seeded 10th in long jump and placed sixth with a mark of 17 feet, 2 inches.

In the 200, Anderson posted a winning time of 25.35 seconds. In her third 200m race ever, Pieper took silver with a time of 26.19.

Anderson finished second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.43 seconds, breaking the 2006 school record of 12.55 seconds set by four-time state champion Halley Parks.

Brooke Hillman won bronze in the 800-meter run and Van Vleet won bronze in the 400m dash.

All of the relay teams added to Paonia's 110 points. In the 4x800 relay, Poppy Lightfoot, Alexandra Eaton, Randi Rapke and Brooke Hillman finished third in 10:16.23. The 4x100 team of Kassidy Rapke, Hillman, Alexandra Eaton and McKenna Hartigan finished seventh in 52.22. Kassidy Rapke, McKenna Hartigan, Pieper and Van Vleet opened the meet with a silver-winning time of 1:51.17 in the 800m sprint medley relay.

On the morning of day one of the two-day meet, condensed from three days to two due to winter weather conditions, Anderson, Pieper, Van Vleet and Hayutin-Baril left the competition in the dust to win the 4x200 relay. Van Vleet and Pieper have won state titles in the 4x200 the last two years. "We couldn't have done it without these two," said Van Vleet of Anderson and Hayutin-Baril.

Hayutin-Baril, a freshman, anchored the relay, crossing the finish line almost five full seconds ahead of second place. It was head coach Brian Mitchem's idea, said Van Vleet. "He told us that it's time to pass the baton on to the next generation."

Their winning time of 1 minute, 43.95 seconds also re-set the Class 2A meet record in the event, set in 2015 by Cedaredge's Kendall McHugh, McKenzie Kehmeier, Kenzie Henderson and Shayna Dale.

On the boys' side, Blake Benson earned bronze in the discus with a throw of 141 feet, 6 inches, and Warren Minerich finished ninth with a throw of 132-09. Minerich also placed sixth in the shot put with a throw of 43 feet, 5.25 inches.

The boy's 4x800 team of Caden Meilner, Eli Etter, Logan Green and Harley Ewert made the podium's final (ninth-place) spot with a time of 8:47.51.