Aspen’s Abarca wins first leg of triple crown, takes 3A 200-meter title

Aspen High School senior Sunday Abarca gives a smile after crossing the finish line in 21.39 seconds to win the Class 3A boys' 200-meter dash on Saturday at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood. It is Abarca's third state title after he won the 400-meter dash as both a sophomore and junior. He'll go for his third consecutive 400-meter crown on Sunday.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

LAKEWOOD — There was certainly celebration, beginning with a sly smile from Sunday Abarca moments after he crossed the finish line, but his victory is only meant to be the start of something greater this weekend.

The Aspen High School senior began his quest for a rare triple crown Saturday by winning the Class 3A boys’ 200-meter dash at Jeffco Stadium. Still remaining are Sunday’s 100- and 400-meter races, of which he is among the favorites to win.

“Never satisfied. We got the gold, but we still have two more events,” Abarca said. “I set up my blocks, got out quick, leaned into the curve, it opened up and I just kept rolling.”

Abarca is the two-time reigning 3A champion in the 400. Saturday’s 200-meter crown was his first state title outside of his signature 400-meter race.

He finished the 200 meters in 21.39 seconds. He had unofficially broken the 3A meet record when he crossed the finish line, but the record didn’t stand because of the wind factor. D’Evelyn’s Wesley Tedstrom was right on his heels, finishing in 21.80 seconds, followed by Lutheran’s Luke Arkell in 22.04 seconds. Basalt High School junior Noah Williams also competed in the race, finishing 17th in 23.24 seconds.

After a strong spring snowstorm forced the Colorado High School Activities Association to turn the three-day event into a two-day competition, the prelims were scratched and the finals were held in two timed sections.

“It went as planned. Even better,” AHS track coach James Aldridge said of Saturday’s 200-meter race. “He ran a fast time and that was the whole goal, to be the fastest man, regardless of the class.”

Abarca’s time of 21.39 seconds was in fact the fastest of all male competitors in the 200-meter dashes Saturday. Fountain’s Donovan Williams won the 5A race in 21.63 seconds, although with slightly less wind at his back. Air Academy’s Nik Chappee won the 4A race in 21.65 seconds, and he had even more of a wind advantage than Abarca.

Still, Abarca didn’t come to Denver just to win the 200. He has a chance to win all three of the sprints, and that’s exactly what he plans on doing. In the 11:30 a.m. 100-meter dash he is seeded second with a time of 10.85 seconds. The only person with a better time is Tedstrom, who ran it in 10.79 seconds earlier this season.

Abarca is the heavy favorite to win his third consecutive 400-meter title. His seed time of 49.07 seconds has him sitting atop the qualifying list, with Weld Central’s Jonathan Rodriguez entering second at 49.47 seconds. The 3A boys’ 400 is scheduled to start at 2:18 p.m., again in two sections.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Abarca said Saturday afternoon. “I’m going to rest up, get some good sleep, eat good and when tomorrow comes, it’ll just come.”

Abarca’s day began in the 3A boys’ 4×200-meter relay. The only other state qualifiers for the Skiers were his relay teammates of Edgar Ortiz, Dillon Leasure and Laughlin McIntyre.

At one point during the season, the relay team barely cracked the top 40 in 3A. Entering the state meet, they were seeded ninth with a season-best time of 1 minute, 32.6 seconds, putting them right on the bubble for a podium spot (top nine).

The foursome, competing together for the first time this season, finished Saturday’s race in 1:32.5, a personal record that placed them in seventh place and onto the podium.

While Abarca will graduate, the other three members of the relay team are expected back next season for the Skiers.

“Dillon and I, we could have had a better handoff, but it’s not a bad birthday present to end up seventh,” said Ortiz, who turned 17 on Saturday. “We ran faster than we had in our previous meet, which was good. I’m just happy that we placed and we actually got a medal, so that was exciting.”