This week two of Paonia's throwers are making their second and final trip to state. Seniors Warren Minerich and Blake Benson are both ranked in the top five in their respective event -- Minerich in shot put and Benson in discus.
Since they started throwing back in middle school, qualifying for state their senior year has been their goal all along. This year, Benson is ranked fifth in discus. He was fourth heading into the Cedaredge meet, but in finals, Telluride's Kade Brantingham bumped him down to fifth on a season-best throw of over 140 feet.
Minerich is ranked seventh in shot put. Minerich said on Saturday he was shooting for a 130-foot throw in discus, which would put him comfortably in the top 18, but still squeaked in at No. 17 on a throw he made in April.
Regardless of where they're ranked, "It's nice to be able to go to state again," said Minerich.
Minerich and Benson already have two state championships under their belts as linemen for the Paonia Eagles football team. In track, both are equally successful in their chosen sport. As juniors Benson placed sixth in discus in 2016, and Minerich placed seventh in shot and also was 11th in discus. Both started throwing in middle school after watching Minerich's sister throw in high school.
"Throwers are their own breed, to some extent," said head coach Brian Mitchem. Since they aren't out on the track, they quietly go about their business and sometimes don't get the attention they deserve. But this year's throwers have been reliable, helpful teammates, said Mitchem. They work with other throwers (Paonia has five throwers, including freshman Levi Peterson and juniors Cyrus Malek-Madani and Marco Carrillo) and are always offering to help out in any way they can. "We'll definitely miss those guys," said Mitchem.
At Cedaredge, Malek-Madani improved on his personal best marks by almost four feet in both events, said Mitchem. But after all the other marks from across the state were entered into MaxPreps, he qualified in shot put but was a heartbreaking 19th in discus.
At the state meet in Lakewood, Benson will throw discus this Thursday afternoon, and Minerich will throw shot put Friday morning.
After years of competing in throwing events, both athletes know that on any given day it's possible to get that perfect throw of the shot put or release of the discus that can set a new personal best mark. "That's the best place for that to happen, is at state," said Benson.
The boys also qualified in the 4x800m relay, junior Caden Meilner is qualified in the 1600m and 3200m runs, and freshman Kyle Long is ranked 13th in the high jump.
Jeffco Stadium is the site for Colorado's State Track Championships.