Titanic champs: Coal Ridge track and field girls earn first state title in school history
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
LAKEWOOD — It’s been 27 years since Garfield County has had a Colorado state track and field title to call its own.
On Saturday, that drought came to an end with the Coal Ridge High School girls track team hoisting the 3A championship trophy high above their heads for everyone to see as they were crowned state champs.
Head coach Ben Kirk said the possibility of the girls winning the title occurred to the coaches about a month ago.
“We met as an entire girls team and told them if we are going to win the state title, then Peyton Garrison and Mikayla Cheney need to run their individual events,” Kirk said. “The rest of the responsibility fell on everyone else stepping up, and the girls took ownership of this responsibility and had great races.”
The Titans had great races across the board from the main point-scorer in Garrison to the rest of the team fighting for every single point they could get to elevate them more in the team standings. Garrison completed the triple crown of the sprinting events by winning the 100-meter (12.38), 200-meter (25.02) and 400-meter dash (56.23).
“I’ve been running since the seventh grade and been working hard to make this big dream of mine a reality. Winning all three of my events feels amazing,” Garrison said after earning her third individual state title. “After I run the 4×400, I am going to celebrate by giving a big hug to all my amazing teammates and coaches.”
Garrison went on to help the 4×400-meter relay team place first at the conclusion of the meet. The team was comprised of Natalie Smythe, Cheney, Jackie Camunez and Garrison on the anchor leg. When Camunez handed the baton off to Garrison, the race was quite close, with the Titans having only a few meters on Berthoud and The Classical Academy. But Garrison put it into her top gear and opened up a 20-meter gap to give the Titans the 4×400-meter title.
Garrison wasn’t the only one who contributed a large number of points to the Titans’ state championship performance. In the distance events, sophomore Mikayla Cheney, who used to run sprints, placed first in the 800 (2:15.23) and second in the 1,600-meter run (5:04).
The Titans also dominated the throwing and jumping events. Taylor Wiescamp placed second in the shot put (39-00) and third in the discus (115-06). In the pole vault, Phoebe Young vaulted 11-06, which was enough to tie her for the bronze medal in the competition.
In terms of relays, the Titans placed second in the 4×100 (Camunez, Raeanna Nelson, Young and Railey Largent), fifth in the 4×200 (Camunez, Nelson, Smythe and Largent), and seventh in the 4×800 (Taylee Richards, Araceli Ayala, Marilynn Stephens and Cheney), all without the skill Garrison brings at the short sprint events.
Coal Ridge athletes had their hands in every single aspect of the state meet: sprints, distance, throws and jumping events. Kirk credits this to the coaching staff around him.
“We have coaches that are passionate and capable of coaching the girls to place high in the jump events, the distance events and the throws,” he said on Saturday. “This coupled with the girls’ desire to step up in order to finish as high as they can at state results in what we saw today.”
Another aspect that contributed to the Titans winning the state title on Saturday was the strong display of team culture, not only at the state meet but throughout the season. Coal Ridge athletes and fans could be heard loud and proud whenever one of their fellow teammates toed the line.
A Coal Ridge athlete was always the first to give a hug or a high-five to a fellow competitor minutes after they were racing in a heated state title battle.
“I think the strong team culture just goes back to how we do things on a daily basis. We do things as a team,” Kirk said “Whether you are low talent or high talent, everyone does the same workout, and everyone wants to get better.”
The Titans’ state title is not only the first for the girls track team, but is also the first for Coal Ridge, which has been established for 15 years.
“It’s a big deal (to win the title),” Kirk said. “It shows that we are going in the right direction, and everything we did in terms of work throughout the season paid off.”
Kirk concluded by saying, “I never really thought this was possible — I knew we had a team that was incredibly talented, but it still hasn’t sunk in fully.”
As the girls descended the champions podium, shining bright with their trophy and state banner, maybe the significance finally hit home for Kirk as he adoringly smiled over the team he just witnessed accomplish what a year ago seemed impossible.
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One of the most significant moments in Crockett Williams’ football life came when he suffered a concussion. It was freshman year, and the now 29-year-old Coal Ridge High School alumnus was sidelined after getting his cage rattled.