It was another outstanding season in Aurora for girls track and field and it was spread out throughout town.
The 2023 Sentinel Colorado All-Aurora Girls Track Team — which is based primarily on results from the state meet or from the regular season —includes a significant portion of athletes from 5A state team runner-up Grandview plus Cherokee Trail, Eaglecrest, Hinkley, Regis Jesuit and Vista PEAK.
The Wolves won the first 5A state championship for outgoing coach John Reyes in runaway fashion in 2017 and tried to send him out with another in a state meet that was much more contentious. Grandview had a chance to win that went all the way down to the meet-closing 4×400 relay but couldn’t finish in front of Valor Christian with the title on the line.
Junior Gabriella Cunningham came into the season with high expectations and lived up to every single one of them. With a focus completely dedicated to track after she had helped Grandview win a 5A girls basketball championship in the 2021-22 season, Cunningham grabbed three individual All-Aurora accolades plus one with a relay team.
Second the previous season in both the 100 and 300 meter hurdles, Cunningham finished on top of the medal podium in both events this time around and had the fastest times in Colorado regardless of classification.
She opened the final day of the state meet with a fourth-place finish in the 100 meter dash — with a time of 12.21 seconds that also earned her All-Aurora honors — and claimed her first title in the 100 meter hurdles. Cunningham ran the exact same time in prelims and finals of 13.78 that was her second-fastest of the season after she turned in a 13.69 at the Stutler Twilight. It led the way in a dominant city performance in the event as Vista PEAK’s Kendall McCoy took second and Cherokee Trail’s Sanaai Hancock third.
Cunningham also didn’t run her top time of the season in the 300 hurdles but still managed to take the event. She clocked a 42.36 at the Arcadia Invitational in Florida in April and was just slightly off that pace in the finals with a winning time of 42.71 seconds.
In her last attempt to help bring home the team championship for Grandview, Cunningham put the finishing touches on a state championship victory for the Wolves in the 4×100 meter relay. Sophomore Leiava Holliman, junior Makiya Singleton and senior McKenzie Droughns ran the first three legs of the races that finished in a time of 47.63 that was the fastest run in 5A all season. It was just enough to keep Eaglecrest out of the top spot, as the Raptors finished second in 48.12.
Rounding out Grandview’s All-Aurora contingent is junior Anna Wehrenberg (400 meters), who also teamed with senior Ava Robinson, junior Julia Pace and sophomore Kennedie Bird Bear on a fifth-place finish in the 4×400 meter relay. Wehrenberg ran a season-best time of 57.66 in the prelims, and a 57.87 in the finals placed her fourth. She then led off the relay team, which ended up crossing the finish line in a season-best 3:57.19.
Grandview’s last All-Aurora performer was senior Dallis Robinson, who claimed fifth place in the 5A girls high jump, which saw five Aurora athletes make the championship finals. Robinson cleared 5 feet, 3 inches — same as freshman teammate Sasha Kennedy — but cleared it on her second attempt while it took Kennedy until her third.
The Eaglecrest 4×100 runner-up team of seniors Kiara Garcia, Maya Walters and Bianca Gleim and sophomore Jaylynn Wilson didn’t walk away without a state championship, however.
A day earlier, that group of Raptors had come out on top of the Wolves in the 4×200 meter relay, giving the program a second consecutive championship in the event. With Wilson running the anchor leg, the Raptors ran a time of 1:41.63 that was fastest in 5A for the season and second only to 4A state champion Mesa Ridge (1:41.21) in Colorado.
The last running event All-Aurora spot went to Vista PEAK senior Averi Williams, the city’s top performer in the 200 meter dash. One of four city athletes among the nine finalists, Williams finished in front of Wilson — who was second in prelims — with a time of 25.09, her season best.
Aurora was shut out in terms of state championships in the field events, but Cherokee Trail had the majority of the area’s top performers. Sophomore Kaeli Powe earned All-Aurora honors in both the long jump and triple jump, while senior Sydnie Bernard earned the pole vault spot.
Powe won the Centennial League championship in the triple jump with a PR of 38 feet, 10 1/2 inches, and she started strong in the event at state with a lead of 37-8 in the first of her six attempts. She wasn’t able to better that in the next five, however, and settled for the runner-up spot behind Pine Creek’s Joy Nnantha (38-5 3/4).
She also was the Centennial League winner in the long jump — though with an effort well shy of the season-best 19-2 that won her the Cherry Creek Invitational — and Powe finished fourth at state with a best jump of 18-1.
Bernard has been Aurora’s top girls pole vaulter for quite some time and she again collected All-Aurora honors. A state qualifier, Bernard — who set a season-best of 11 feet at the Centennial League championship meet — cleared 10-10 at state to finish 11th.
All-Aurora throwing honors were split between seniors in Hinkley’s Leilah Swanson (discus) and Eaglecrest’s Blythe Cayko (shot put), who were both in their third season of competition. Swanson and Cayko each placed in the top eight in both throwing events, but flip-flopped city supremacy.
Cayko — who played field hockey in the fall and was a state championship finals in girls wrestling in the winter — only had three of her six attempts in the shot put count, but one of them landed her a fourth-place finish. The Centennial League champion in the event (with a throw of 37-2 1/4), Cayko’s 35-10 1/2 at state put her into a tie with Liberty’s Hope Callen, who got the third-place spot thanks to a second throw that was longer.
Swanson, who played volleyball in the fall and basketball in the winter, finished eighth in the shot put competition (in which she was the City League champion). She finished much higher in the discus, where she launched a season-best throw of 117 feet, 5 inches, to finish in third. Swanson’s best effort came on the first throw of finals.
Distance running was down for Aurora girls, as nobody from a city program qualified for state in either the 800 or 3,200 meter runs.
Regis Jesuit senior Jo Collins earned All-Aurora honors in the 1,600 meter run, though she did not make it onto the medal podium. She had the 18th-fastest time in the regular season (a 5:05.82 that would be her season’s best) to get the last state berth, then came in 16th with a time of 5:07.40. Collins missed state by less than two seconds in the 800 meters, but was still the best in Aurora with a showing of 2:18.45 achieved at the same venue as the state meet at the Don Ossie Invitational April 13.
Grandview senior Grace Kirkpatrick finished with the 36th-fastest time in 5A in the 3,200 meters, which left her out of the state meet, but led city runners. Her season-best time of 11:33.07 came at the Stutler Twilight meet.
Aurora also did not have a state qualifier in the distance relay (4×800), so the honor went to Regis Jesuit, which had the 20th-fastest time in the state. The Raiders ran 10:01.96 at the Liberty Bell Invitational, where they placed 13th.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2023 SENTINEL COLORADO ALL-AURORA GIRLS TRACK TEAM
800 sprint medley relay — Grandview (Leiava Holliman, Makiya Singleton, Anna Wehrenberg, Ava Robinson)
4×800 meter relay — Regis Jesuit (non-state qualifier)
100 meter hurdles — Gabriella Cunningham, jr., Grandview*
100 meter dash — Gabriella Cunningham, jr., Grandview
4×200 meter relay — Eaglecrest (Kiara Garcia, Maya Walters, Bianca Gleim, Jaylynn Wilson)*
1,600 meter run — Jo Collins, sr., Regis Jesuit
4×100 meter relay — Grandview (Leiava Holliman, Makiya Singleton, McKenzie Droughns, Gabriella Cunningham)*
400 meter dash — Anna Wehrenberg, jr., Grandview
300 meter hurdles — Gabriella Cunningham, jr., Grandview*
800 meter run — Jo Collins, sr., Regis Jesuit (non-state qualifier)
200 meter dash — Averi Williams, sr., Vista PEAK
3,200 meter run — Grace Kirkpatrick, sr., Grandview (non-state qualifier)
4×400 meter relay — Grandview (Anna Wehrenberg, Julia Pace, Kennedie Bird Bear, Ava Robinson)
Long jump — Kaeli Powe, soph., Cherokee Trail
High jump — Dallis Robinson, sr., Grandview
Pole vault — Sydnie Bernard, sr., Cherokee Trail
Triple jump — Kaeli Powe, soph., Cherokee Trail
Discus — Leilah Swanson, sr., Hinkley
Shot put — Blythe Cayko, sr., Eaglecrest
* — Class 5A state champion
Zane Bullock, sr., Rangeview (200 meter dash); Rachel Carlsen, jr., Eaglecrest (300 meter hurdles); Blythe Cayko, sr., Eaglecrest (discus); McKenzie Droughns, sr., Grandview (100 meter dash); Tajah Eugene, fr., Vista PEAK (high jump); Ryen Galloway, soph., Cherokee Trail (high jump); Bianca Gleim, sr., Eaglecrest (200 meter dash); Sanaai Hancock, jr., Cherokee Trail (100 meter hurdles); Raziah Hyslop, soph., Cherokee Trail (discus); Sasha Kennedy, fr., Grandview (300 meter hurdles/high jump); Kendall McCoy, sr., Vista PEAK (100 meter hurdles/300 meter hurdles); Kaeli Powe, soph., Cherokee Trail (100 meter hurdles); Janna Preskorn, sr., Eaglecrest (shot put); Leilah Swanson, sr., Hinkley (shot put); Maya Walters, sr., Eaglecrest (triple jump); Jaylynn Wilson, soph., Eaglecrest (200 meter dash); Desiré Young, sr., Smoky Hill (high jump). Relays: Triniti Statewright, Lillian Krob, Sanaai Hancock, Alexandria Carelock, Cherokee Trail (800 meter sprint medley relay); Kiara Garcia, Maya Walters, Bianca Gleim, Jaylynn Wilson, Eaglecrest (2nd, 4×100 meter relay); Kiara Garcia, Maya Walters, Bianca Gleim, Jaylynn Wilson (3rd, 800 meter sprint medley relay); Leiava Holliman, Anna Wehrenberg, McKenzie Droughns, Ava Robinson, Grandview (2nd, 4×200 meter relay); Gabrielle Emmanuel, Janyissa Bannister, Elisha Davis, Zane Bullock, Rangeview (4th, 4×100 meter relay);
Avani Houston, Janyissa Bannister, Elisha Davis, Zane Bullock (4th, 4×200 meter relay)