For a third straight season, the Class 5A boys state track championship came home to Aurora, as Cherokee Trail followed up back-to-back titles by Grandview in 2021 and 2022 with one of its own in 2023.
The Cougars appear to have some staying power, as well, as several of the key figures for coach Chris Faust’s team — including breakout sophomore star Peyton Sommers — expect to return next season.
The 2023 Sentinel Colorado All-Aurora Boys Track Team, which is based on state meet performance — or best in the regular season — comes from a variety of city programs and features an abundance of state champions and some that came up just short of winning as well. A good representation from 5A state team champion Cherokee Trail appears, as do athletes from Eaglecrest, Grandview, Overland, Rangeview and Regis Jesuit.
Sommers finished no worse than second in any of the four events he competed in and swept All-Aurora spots in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. He won state championships in the 200 and 400 meters with times of 21.10 and 46.77 seconds, respectively, that were the best clocked in 5A all season. Sommers finished a close second in the 100 meters, but his time of 10.50 seconds run at the Centennial League Championship meet topped all Colorado runners regardless of classification.
Besides that, Sommers ran the anchor leg of Cherokee Trail’s championship-winning 4×200 relay team, as he followed fellow sophomore Kaelan Kombo, junior Kahari Wilbon and senior Jaylon Moore with the baton. The Cougars’ time of 1:25.65 led all Colorado teams for the season, regardless of classification.
Because he had reached his quota of four events, Sommers was unable to run in the 4×400 relay at the state meet, but he teamed with Kombo, Wilbon and senior Beck Gutjahr at the Centennial League meet, which produced a Colorado state record time of 3:13.02. It was also the 10th-fastest time in the country for the season.
Senior Reuben Holness filled in at state and the Cougars ran a strong 3:15.85 to finish second behind Thunder Ridge, which surged to set a 5A state meet record of 3:15.29.
Gutjahr also appears heavily on the All-Aurora team as he picked up a key result for Cherokee Trail in the 800 meter run when he placed third in a time of 1:54.03.
He also anchored the Cougars’ runner-up 4×800 relay team that also included Holness and juniors McKay Larsen and Brady Smith. A dropped baton on the final exchange between Smith and Gutjahr — with Cherokee Trail holding a slight lead — gave Mountain Vista just the break it needed to move in front and win. The Cougars still finished in 7:45.69.
Rangeview had a small, but mighty, group at the state tournament that very nearly saw two of its three individual state qualifiers earn championships.
On the opening day, senior Micah Dobson did just that in the triple jump, which he secured with a jump of 46 feet, 1 1/2 inches. Dobson — the Aurora City champion whose season-best jump of 46-11 came at the Cherry Creek Invitational — waited out more than an hour-long delay due to lightning and heavy rain and notched the winning jump on his final attempt.
Junior Jaheim Alexander nearly made it 2-for-2 for coach Marty Witmer’s Raiders as he threatened to take the 110 meter hurdles crown. Alexander had the fastest time in prelims of 14.59 and then went a season-best 14.45 in the finals, but he finished an eyelash behind Denver East’s Nigel James, who got to the finish line in 14.36 seconds.
Due to graduation and injury, Grandview’s championship run came to an end, but the Wolves still had plenty of strong performances. Senior Gibby Leafgreen — who is a dedicated football player who came to track via retiring coach John Reyes — placed in both hurdles events. His fifth-place finish in the 300 meter hurdles came with his best time of the season of 39.07 seconds.
Overland has a throwing star in Jarrius Ward, who was the city’s top performer at the state meet in the discus and shot put, in which he finished as the runner-up at the state meet.
Ward and club teammate Charles LaFore of Chatfield dueled in both events, and LaFore ended up on top this time in both. Ward did finish the season with the longest throw in the discus of anybody in 5A, however, with a toss of 185 feet, 4 inches at the Cherry Creek Invitational May 6. His season-best shot put throw of 53-1 put him second at state and was third-longest for the entire season.
Senior Peyton Taylor excelled in football in the fall and basketball in the winter for Eaglecrest, then had a big impact on the track team in the spring. He finished the season as Aurora’s top performer in the long jump and high jump at the state meet.
Taylor won the Centennial League championship in the high jump with a PR of 6 feet, 4 inches, but topped out at 6-1 in the competition at state that put him in fourth place. He finished just off the medal podium in 10th place in the long jump at state with a top effort of 20-10, which was short of his season-best of 21-6 that came at the Hawk Invitational in April.
In addition, Taylor teamed with seniors Diego Cearns and Cameron Gay and junior Cam Chapa on a 4×100 meter relay team that edged Cherokee Trail by 0.05 of a second for All-Aurora honors. The Raptors crossed the finish line in 42.02 to the Cougars’ 42.07.
All-Aurora pole vault honors went to Regis Jesuit senior Sullivan Martin, who built throughout the season and achieved his season-best of 14 feet at the state meet. Martin won the Denver North Invitational at 12-9 May 5, finished ninth in the Continental League meet at 13-3 May 12 and then hit 14 to finish seventh at state.
Martin was just one of three Regis Jesuit boys to make the All-Aurora team, as he joined the distance pair of junior David Flaig (3,200 meters) and sophomore Braeden Focht.
Flaig had a strong cross country season in the fall and followed that with a state track meet that saw him run a 4:16.12 (more than four seconds faster than his previous season best) to place fifth in the 1,600 meters.
Focht — who was also a state qualifier in the 1,600 — knocked nearly five seconds off his season-best in the 3,200 with a 9:27.36 that left him off the medal podium in 12th place.
2023 SENTINEL COLORADO ALL-AURORA BOYS TRACK TEAM
4×800 meter relay — Cherokee Trail (Reuben Holness, Beck Gutjahr, McKay Larsen, Brady Smith)
110 meter hurdles — Jaheim Alexander, jr., Rangeview
100 meter dash — Peyton Sommers, soph., Cherokee Trail*
4×200 meter relay — Cherokee Trail (Kaelan Kombo, Kahari Wilbon, Jaylon Moore, Peyton Sommers)*
1,600 meter run — Braeden Focht, soph., Regis Jesuit
4×100 meter relay — Eaglecrest (Peyton Taylor, Diego Cearns, Cam Chapa, Cameron Gay)
400 meter dash — Peyton Sommers, soph., Cherokee Trail*
300 meter hurdles — Gibby Leafgreen, sr., Grandview
800 meter run — Beck Gutjahr, sr., Cherokee Trail
200 meter dash — Peyton Sommers, soph., Cherokee Trail*
3,200 meter run — David Flaig, jr., Regis Jesuit
4×400 meter relay — Cherokee Trail (Kaelan Kombo, Kahari Wilbon, Reuben Holness, Beck Gutjahr)
Long jump — Peyton Taylor, sr., Eaglecrest
High jump — Peyton Taylor, sr., Eaglecrest
Pole vault — Sullivan Martin, sr., Regis Jesuit
Triple jump — Micah Dobson, sr., Rangeview*
Discus — Jarrius Ward, soph., Overland
Shot put — Jarrius Ward, soph., Overland
* — Class 5A state champion
Jayden Diggins, jr., Eaglecrest (high jump); Braeden Focht, soph., Regis Jesuit (1,600 meter run); Lavelle Kabeya-Kombo, jr., Cherokee Trail (110 meter hurdles); Kaelan Kombo, soph., Cherokee Trail (200 meter dash/400 meter dash); Gibby Leafgreen, sr., Grandview (110 meter hurdles); Ose Okhihan, sr., Rangeview (triple jump); Luke Trinrud, sr., Grandview (100 meter dash);
Relays: Benjamin Reichert, Marquis Jamison, Jaylon Moore, Kalib Davis, Cherokee Trail (4×100 meter relay); Revano Plummer, Liam Szarka, Luke Trinrud, Nkongolo Wa Kalonji, Grandview (4×100 meter relay); Revano Plummer, Liam Szarka, Luke Trinrud, Nkongolo Wa Kalonji, Grandview (4×200 meter relay); Marcel Evans, Isaiah Watson, Dhanavan Rashad, D’Quan McClennon, Vista PEAK (4×200 meter relay); Cameron Gray, Diego Cearns, Cam Chapa, Jeffrey Poku, Eaglecrest (4×200 meter relay); Andrew Naylor, Sharif Gaafar, Richjarion Hines, Collin Vugrin, Smoky Hill (4×400 meter relay);
Zion Taylor, Braeden Focht, David Flaig, John Burns, Regis Jesuit (4×800 meter relay)