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Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia’s Sabrina Leighton won the league shot put title on this throw, which landed 36 feet, 8.25 inches from where it started.
Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia’s Caden Meilner (2) and teammate Ethan Bartlett (4) keep pace with the leaders in the early stages of the 3200m run at last week’s multi league meet in Grand Junction. Meilner finished the race in second place and Bartlett was third.

Paonia girls first, boys fifth in track

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Over the two-day meet the boys and girls teams combined set about 40 personal records, said Paonia head coach Brian Mitchem. "Some of them were what we'd been waiting for."

The Paonia girls placed in the top three in 10 events and scored 130 points over two days to win the 2A/1A Western Slope League track and field meet.

One of the PRs they'd been waiting for was Sabrina Leighton's winning throw in the shot put. "That was huge," said Mitchem. "That was fantastic for her."

Leighton, a junior, hit a career high mark of 36 feet, 8.25 inches on Saturday. Her best mark coming into the league meet was 34-11.

"It was something we've been waiting for," said throwing coach Scott Rienks. She's been hitting 36-37 feet in practice, but wasn't able to transfer those performances to competition until Saturday. To be able to PR and win the event less than two weeks from state competition "was huge for her," said Rienks.

Leighton hit the winning mark on her second preliminary throw. "It felt just so easy, like no effort at all," said Leighton. Unlike previous competitions, she said she wasn't at all nervous. "It felt really smooth."

Rienks told her going into the ring to not think about her throw, and to "just go in the ring and do what you do best," said Leighton. That was good advice. Saturday's throw puts her in fifth place in state top-18 standings with one qualifying meet remaining.

Leighton, a junior, started throwing in seventh grade. Throwing "just felt right," she said. "The people that are in throwing are really sweet and really nice. It's a good environment."

Her sophomore year she placed 16th at state. She continues to improve, and believes she has it in her to throw even farther before the season is over. Leighton also set a PR of 85 feet in the discus on Friday. While she didn't place, this was the first time all year she surpassed last year's best mark.

Senior Mckenna Palmer also had strong performances, winning the long jump with a mark of 15-6.5 and the triple jump with a mark of 35-2. Palmer, a four-time state qualifier in the triple jump, placed third at state as a sophomore and second as a junior and is currently ranked first in state. She said she scratched on her final triple jump, which would have set a new personal record, currently 35-6.5.

Palmer also placed third in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 17.37 seconds.

Junior Alexandra Eaton placed third Saturday in the 100m dash with a time of 13.33. In preliminaries, Eaton ran a career best time of 13.26, currently the 12th fastest 2A time in the state. Eaton also placed fifth in the 300 hurdles (51.59).

Randi Rapke also set a personal record in the 300m hurdles, placing third in 48.97. In high jump, Lyla Hayutin-Baril cleared the bar at 4-8.75 to place third, Sadie Miller placed fifth at 4-6.75, and Natalie Reich-Rogers placed seventh at 4-4.75.

Senior Brooke Hillman took fourth in the 400-meter dash (1:03.25) and in the 800m run (2:31.1).

Freshman Tawny Roberts placed fourth in the 400 (1:04.48), and sixth in the 400 (1:04.75).

In triple jump, Hauytin-Baril placed fourth (31-2), and Lightfoot placed fifth (31-0.25).

Four of five relay teams set season-best times. Paonia placed second in the 800m relay in 1:51.56. The 1600m team Hillman, Randi Rapke, Roberts and Poppy Lightfoot won silver with a time of 4:19.13; and the 400m relay team placed third (53.27). In the 3200 relay, the all-freshman team of Roberts, Ceylon Carter, Sadie Lee and Cristina Rankin placed third in 11:07.56. The 800m sprint medley team placed fourth (1:58.91).

Sophomore Katya Schwieterman placed sixth in the 3200 with a PR of 13:45.96. Freshman Sadie Lee took sixth in the 300 hurdles. In long jump, Kassidy Rapke placed seventh (13-6) and Taralee Mautz placed eighth (13-0.5).

Paonia Boys

The Paonia boys placed fifth with 57 points. With temperatures hovering in the high 70s, the track was hot. Senior distance runner Caden Meilner said that in Saturday afternoon's 1600-meter run he could feel the heat radiating from his spikes.

Meilner won gold in the 1600 with a time of 4 minutes, 46.46 seconds. He called the race "surprisingly close," with four of the top five runners finishing within three seconds of one another. Throughout the race runners were pushing each other, which made for a fast race. "I got boxed in three or four times," he said. In the third lap he took the lead on the final corner and held on for the win.

While he didn't break his personal record, on Friday Meilner PR'd in the 3200 to win silver with a time of 10:40.49 and he hit a career best time in the 800 of 2:06.28 to place fourth. "It feels like I'm peaking at the right time," said Meilner. With state less than two weeks away, that's a good thing.

Senior Cyrus Malek-Madani won silver in the discus with a throw of 137 feet, 4 inches, and placed sixth in shot put with a mark of 41-2.5.

In the 3200m run junior Ethan Bartlett broke his prior best time by 26.4 seconds to finish third in 10:42.28.

The 4x4 team of Jesse Burns, Logan Green, Cade Meilner and Harley Ewert placed seventh but also came close to breaking the top 18 times in the state after taking 15 seconds off its season-best time. "They came in this weekend thinking they were totally out of it, now they know they've got a shot," said Mitchem. "They're right on the bubble."

Ewert also hit a personal best 400m time of 53.3 in preliminaries and placed fifth in finals; in the 800 Ewert placed seventh.

Ben O'Rourke placed seventh in the 1600 with a time of 5:09.02. Freshman Simon Cox, who has steadily improved throughout the season, set a new personal best time of 48.15 seconds to place eighth in the 300m hurdles.

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