A confident Hinkley boys track team rose to the occasion when it mattered most and caused a stir at the Class 5A state track meet.
Thunderbirds’ athletes won two of the three state championships for Aurora boys athletes at Jefferson County Stadium and headline the 2016 Aurora Sentinel All-City Boys Track Team, which features 21 athletes from six different schools who were the tops among city performers in their respective events in the season-ending state meet.
Hinkley’s meteoric rise to the top of the city track world — coach Chris Carhart’s team claimed its first EMAC championship and then finished an Aurora-best third in the 5A boys team standings — came in large part on the strength of its three All-City performers in sophomore Angel Heredia, junior Darrien Wells and senior QuaSean Smith. The trio combined to score points in six individual events and Heredia and Wells also contributed to a placing 4×400 meter relay team.
Heredia swept the All-City positions in both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles and came away with a state championship in the latter.
He missed the finals of the 110s by .02 of a second and though the Thunderbirds’ 4×400 team didn’t top Aurora performers, Heredia’s anchor leg in the prelims rescued the team from a slow start and got it into the finals. (Heredia’s We are the (Aurora) champions story, here.)
“I feel like the 300 hurdles is whoever wants it the most; you can come out hard as you want, but it’s all about that last 100 and how hard you prepare and what your mentality is at the end,” Heredia said. “At the time I didn’t know he (Fruita Monument’s Jacob Hahn) was disqualified, but when I saw him coming up next to me, I pumped my arms and gave everything I had.”
Heredia also scored in the long jump with his ninth-place finish.
Competing in his first state track meet as a junior, Wells made the medal podium in all three sprinting events. He was Aurora’s top performer in the 400 meters — in which he won the state championship by outlasting another city standout, Overland’s Cameron Murray — and also topped city athletes in the 200 meters. (Wells’ We are the (Aurora) champions story, here.)
Wells, who was the MVP of the EMAC meet, benefited greatly from Heredia’s presence on a daily basis.
“I’m super lucky to have somebody like Angel on the team because he pushes me every day,” Wells said. “We feed off each others success and each others talent to do better in practice every day. Without Angel, it would be hard for me to be the best I can be.”
Primarily a football player, Smith proved to be an incredible addition to the team. He found a love for the shot put and got better at it week by week. He made the most of his only trip to the state meet by finishing second overall.
Regis Jesuit senior Austin Campbell won the other state title for Aurora boys, as he edged Cherokee Trail’s David Thornton in the high jump. The Penn State signee cleared the 6 feet, 9 inch mark on one earlier attempt than Thornton to give him the tiebreaker for the state title. (Campbell’s We are the (Aurora) champions story, here.)
Despite losing stalwart Javan Lanier to injury early at state, the Raiders racked up plenty of points thanks to Campbell, senior Jack Davidson —the city’s top performer in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters — and junior pole vaulter Jason Lewis.
Davidson finished second in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600, while Lewis — a well-rounded track athlete — cleared a season-best 14 feet, 7 inches, in the pole vault to tie for fourth overall.
The Rangeview group of seniors Stephan DeLeon, Ronald McQueen and DeVante’ Wheaten and junior Chase Walker lost just two times all season and grabbed the All-City spots in both the 4×100 and 4×00 relays. The Raiders finished second in the 4×100 and third in the 4×200, a satisfying result considering they missed finals last season.
“We didn’t know who the relay team was going to be at the beginning of the year, but when we got together and ran the first meet, I had a good feeling,” McQueen said. “It was a huge bummer falling short of making finals last year, but to be top three twice this year was amazing.”
The Rangeview foursome felt overlooked coming into the state meet and enjoyed their success and high spots on the podium.
“For us to make it to state and get that close to winning when we were doubted the whole season, it means a lot,” said Walker, a junior who enjoyed running with three seniors and intends to take a leadership role next season.
Individually, Walker had an outstanding season in the long jump. He won the event at the Liberty Bell Invitational and led a group of five Aurora athletes to qualify for the finals at the state meet with a jump fo 22 feet, 6 1/4 inch.
Cherokee Trail’s hopes of winning the state title were short-circuited early, but the Cougars featured city-best performances from junior KJ Sapp in the 100 meters, senior Ta’Marr Wilson in the triple jump and junior Ruben Estrada in the discus.
Estrada — a standout offensive lineman on the Cherokee Trail football team — checked in 10th in the discus with a top throw of 140 feet. He credited increased strength from him time in the weight room and improved technique for getting to state.
Grandview and Smoky Hill grabbed relay spots on the All-City team.
The Buffs’ group of Tahir Hopkins, Josh Cordova, Paul Cleveland and Tristan James Waters topped Aurora performers in the 4×400 and the Wolves’ 4×800 relay team of seniors Cory Smith, Colin Armstrong, Brian Burris and sophomore Caleb Randolph — who earned a spot on the relay midseason — posted the best result.
Hopkins ran at state for the third time in his career and individually he finished fifth individually in the top of the Aurora-dominated 400, while he served as a leader on an 4×400 relay team with several newcomers to the state meet.
In a tight finish, the Buffs got the finish line in sixth place, just ahead of Aurora’s other two finalists, seventh-place Grandview and eighth-place Hinkley.
Grandview’s 4×800 relay team got a boost when Randolph subbed in during the middle of the season and he teamed with seniors Burris (who is headed to run at the University of Northern Colorado), Smith and Armstrong to finish 13th.
The Wolves finished well in front of 18th-place Cherokee Trail, the only other Aurora program to qualify a relay for the state meet.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2016 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-CITY BOYS TRACK & FIELD TEAM
100 meters: KJ Sapp, jr., Cherokee Trail; 200 meters: Darrien Wells, jr., Hinkley; 400 meters: Darrien Wells, jr., Hinkley*; 800 meters: Jack Davidson, sr., Regis Jesuit; 1,600 meters: Jack Davidson, sr., Regis Jesuit; 3,200 meters: Jack Davidson, sr., Regis Jesuit; 110 meter hurdles: Angel Heredia, soph., Hinkley; 300 meter hurdles: Angel Heredia, soph., Hinkley*; 4×100 meter relay: Rangeview (Ronald McQueen, DeVante’ Wheaten, Stephan DeLeon, Chance Walker); 4×200 meter relay: Rangeview (Ronald McQueen, DeVante’ Wheaten, Stephan DeLeon, Chance Walker); 4×400 meter relay: Smoky Hill (Paul Cleveland, Josh Cordova, Tahir Hopkins, Tristan James Waters); 4×800 meter relay: Grandview (Brian Burris, Colin Armstrong, Cory Smith, Caleb Randolph); High jump: Austin Campbell, sr., Regis Jesuit*; Long jump: Chance Walker, jr., Rangeview; Triple jump: Ta’Marr Wilson, sr., Cherokee Trail; Pole vault: Jason Lewis, jr., Regis Jesuit; Shot put: QuaSean Smith, sr., Hinkley; Discus: Ruben Estrada, jr., Cherokee Trail
* — State champion
Honorable mention: Austin Campbell, sr., Regis Jesuit (long jump); Angel Heredia, soph., Hinkley (110 hurdles); Tahir Hopkins, sr., Smoky Hill (400 meters); Geoffrey Lord, jr., Regis Jesuit (pole vault); Robert Moss, jr., Grandview (shot put); Cameron Murray, soph., Overland (200, 400 meters); Uche Obinnah, sr., Grandview (high jump); KJ Sapp, jr., Cherokee Trail (long jump); Mathew Thomas, jr., Rangeview (triple jump); David Thornton, sr., Cherokee Trail (high jump); Darrien Wells, jr., Hinkley (100, 200 meters); Ta’Mar Wilson, sr., Cherokee Trail (long jump); Relays: Cherokee Trail 4×200 (Thomas MacLean, Ta’Mar Wilson, Blaize Holland, KJ Sapp); Eaglecrest 4×100 (Kenny Wantings, Jalen Mergerson, Cole Leroy, Jalen Martin); Grandview 4×400 (Brandon Bodner, Neil Brown, Marcus Lawrence, Stefan McClunney); Hinkley 4×400 (Sean Carey, Angel Heredia, Oscar Sarabia, Darrien Wells); Overland 4×200 (Chris Jones, Trevell Mitchell, Cameron Murray, Colby Murray); Smoky Hill 4×200 (Noah Willoughby, Tahir Hopkins, Josh Cordova, Tristan James Waters)