Aspen’s Sunday Abarca wins 400-meter state title in record time
The Aspen Times
LAKEWOOD — Sunday Abarca of Aspen High School won his second consecutive state title in the 400-meter dash Saturday at the State Track and Field Championships at Jeffco Stadium.
Abarca, who won the 400 in Class 3A last year as a sophomore, started the 400 finals Saturday very deliberately against the fastest field he has faced this year.
By the time the runners were midway through the final curve and halfway through the race, Abarca was running in fifth place.
A chance at a repeat as a state champion appeared to slip away as the sprinters headed for the final 100-meter straightaway.
That’s when Abarca shifted into another gear.
He started passing runners, one by one.
With a mere 10 meters to the finish line, Abarca caught Jared Keul of Manitou Springs. The Aspen High School junior leaned at the tape to win the race in 48.54 seconds — a Class 3A state record and, of course, an Aspen High School record.
Keul, also a junior, finished second in 48.66 seconds. Josh Gregory of Eaton finished third at 48.92.
The state championship at 400 meters was one of three times Abarca would make the podium at the state meet Saturday.
He also finished third in the 100 meters. And he was third in 3A at 200 meters, the same finish he recorded a year ago.
In two years, Abarca has won two individual state championships and has been on the podium at the state track meet five times.
“I had to push myself for everything I had,” Abarca said of his state championship 400. “I was just trying to do my best; run my own race.”
Abarca said he was well-prepared for the championship final in Class 3A’s 400 meters.
“I was ready for it (mentally),” he said. “I knew what I had to do. Everyone was pulling away, but I ran my race.”
He waited, waited and waited.
Then, Abarca started his final explosion to the finish.
“I had to push myself, for sure,” said Abarca, the son of Armando and Anita Abarca. “But I’ve been training hard, working all year long. My hard work paid off.”
“He did what he had to do,” said Aspen High School coach James Aldridge, the former Notre Dame running back and current standout rugby player with the Gentlemen of Aspen. “That was about all those hours in the weight room early in the mornings.”
Fellow Aspen High School coach Kiffor Berg said Abarca’s dramatic closing sprint in the 400 meters reflects all the hard work he’s committed to the sport this season.
“He had to reach deep; we were a little nervous,” Berg said after celebrating Abarca’s state championship run. “But he followed his game plan. He started out … slowly. But he didn’t panic. Then, he turned it on.”
Berg said the ability to run relaxed and not panic while falling behind was a critical factor in Abarca’s comeback to win the 400-meter state title in unseasonably warm weather in Lakewood — 90-degree temperatures.
In the 100-meter final early Saturday morning, Abarca admitted he had a slow start — last out of the blocks.
But he still managed to pass his way to a third-place finish behind 100-meter winner Kent Harris (10.97), a senior from Lutheran, and Eaton’s Gregory (11.23). Abarca finished in 11.34
Later Saturday afternoon, in the 200 meters in 3A, the same trio finished in the same order.
Harris won in 21.89 with Gregory clocking a 22.14. Abarca was third, timed at 22.23.
“There’s still work to do,” Aldridge said to Abarca after his events at the state meet. “More work ahead.”
In the final relay of the 2016 state championships, the Aspen High School girls 4×400 relay team finished eighth in Class 3A to earn a trip to the podium.
The team of Mckenna Woodrow, Julia Jungquist, Adair Pattillo and Dara Schenck posted a 4:14.76 to claim eighth.
The Basalt girls finished ninth and also made the podium. Alyssa Maniscalchi, Carly Robinson, Jenna Curnow and Nicole Alvarado teamed up to put yet another Basalt relay team on the state podium.
They posted a time of 4:19.02.
Colorado Springs Christian won in 4:05.98.
BASALT reaches the podium
Basalt launched onto the podium in individual events again Saturday at the Class 3A state track meet.
Nicole Alvarado, a sophomore, raced to a fourth-place finish in the girls 400-meter dash. She broke the Basalt school record that she had set in Thursday’s prelims in suburban Denver.
She posted a time of 59.97 Saturday to collect a fourth-place medal and return trip to the podium. She placed at state earlier with her Basalt relay teammates.
Super-sprinter Kayla Pinnt of Moffat County won the girls 400 in Class 3A record time of 55.01 seconds.
Pinnt, who will run at Colorado State University next year, also won the girls 100 and the girls 200 for a sprint sweep in Class 3A. She’s won seven individual state titles in her prep career along with three relay state championships.
Sarah Yocum of Faith Christian finished second in 56.55. Chesley Locke of Eaton edged Alvarado for third place.
Basalt also jumped onto the podium at Jeffco Stadium on a hot final day of the State Track and Field Championships. With the temperature at 90 degrees, Basalt senior Jake Schiesser jumped to a fifth-place finish in the Class 3A boys long jump.
He jumped 21 feet, 3.5 inches to earn his state medal.
Gallian Roberts of Salida won the competition with a jump of 22-4.25.
Ethan Rumel of Colorado Springs Christian finished second at 21-7.5.
Basalt teammate Caleb Rewinkel did not advance to the finals in the 3A long jump. He had posted a jump of 21-7.5 earlier this season.
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Trailing to Aspen early in Sunday’s championship, the American Raptors came back to lead 24-15 at halftime and held a two score lead well into the second half before the Gents took over the match. This was the Gents’ 22nd championship at Ruggerfest, a tournament that dates to 1968.