Taylor Watson can almost feel the tears coming already.
The Cherokee Trail senior’s prep track career is a little over two weeks from its end and she’ll have best friends Sydnee Larkin, Jaiden Paris and Chian DeLoach with her every step of the way.
The Cougars’ fantastic foursome is plotting how they can walk off the track for the final time with the Class 5A state championship.
“If we win state, I’d cry, start balling my eyes out,” Watson said.
“We’ve worked so hard and if that was to happen, it would be a dream come true.”
That dream and those potential tears looked more and more realistic after Cherokee Trail’s performance at the Twilight Invitational April 27 at Stutler Bowl.
The Cougars’ full might was on display with a 111.60-point effort that won the strong multi-classification meet by 30 points.
Watson (100 and 200 meters), Larkin (triple jump and long jump) and Paris (100 hurdles) combined for five individual wins and the foursome teamed up to run Colorado’s top time of 46.79 seconds in the 4×100 relay.
With the most important stretch of the season leading up to the May 17-19 Class 5A state track meet, it showed Cherokee Trail coach Chris Faust just what he needed to see.
Faust has had to do championship math when it comes to the state meet before — including 2015, when the Cougars won their first state title — and he’ll have to do it again.
Faust estimates that Denver East (led by sprint phenom and near triple crown certainty Arria Minor) and defending champion Grandview (which is particularly outstanding in the field events) will be formidable foes, but his team certainly has a formula for victory.
“When we get to the week of the state meet, we’re going to have a lot of decisions to make about what events we’ll be in,” Faust said.
“Realistically, these four are all talented enough to be in the top three or four in their respective events. That should be put us in the mix.”
While Cherokee Trail can certainly expect points from other places — junior Caitlin McConnell is a threat in the distance events and the Cougars also have the top-ranked 800 sprint medley relay and No. 4 4×800 relay — but the Cougars’ state title hopes hinge on the proper placement and performance of their senior group.
Their track record definitely says so.
Larkin, Watson, Paris and DeLoach accounted for more than 50 points at least season’s state meet in the Cougars’ third-place finish.
The group won the state championship in the 4×100, finished fourth in the 4×200 and did damage individually: Larkin repeated as triple jump champion, Paris placed third in the 100 hurdles, Watson finished fourth in the 200 and fifth in the 100 meters and DeLoach collected fourth place in the triple jump and sixth in the long jump.
All believe they can be even better.
Larkin — a recent Arizona State signee — is primed for a point bonanza.
She’s currently ranked No. 1 in 5A in the triple jump (no surprise considering she is the two-time defending state winner) as well as the long jump, which is a big deal given her jump of 19 feet, 6 inches, is a PR by nearly a foot.
Larkin’s first order of business is the triple jump, as she seeks to officially take possession of the state record. Larkin’s leap of 41 feet, 9 inches, at the Mercury Invite March 22 bettered Colorado’s All-Classification state mark of 41-3 1/2 (set by Widefield’s Nyeisha Wright in 2006), but proper measurement equipment wasn’t onhand to make it official.
“We run a lot of distance out here which I usually don’t do with my club team and I’ve gotten a lot stronger because of it,” she said. “That strength and speed down the runway, of course, has really helped with both jumps.”
The University of Utah-bound Watson knows she has her work cut out for her in a sprint field that is absolutely loaded, but has her sites set on a second place finish in the 100 and third in the 200 besides her work on relays.
Paris, who recently signed with Michigan State, is ranked No. 2 behind Rock Canyon star Emily Sloan in the 100 hurdles and No. 3 in the 300 hurdles, while she’s ready for relays.
DeLoach is confident her long jump will be strong at state and the Colorado Mesa signee is aiming to improve dramatically in the triple jump, where her jump of 36-5 has her 11th.
An ankle injury that limited her early is becoming a memory.
“I’m really excited, it’s our last year and we’re going to try for that title,” DeLoach said.
The reality of the opportunity in front of them has truly hit home with the seniors.
“Winning is definitely possible for us,” Paris said. “I didn’t think so at the beginning, but I do now. I haven’t won state before, so I want that ring. Stay tuned.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports
CHEROKEE TRAIL GIRLS CLASS 5A TOP 10 RANKINGS (THROUGH APRIL 30)
100 meters: 3. Taylor Watson, 11.89 seconds; T5. Sydnee Larkin, 11.99; 200 meters: T4. Taylor Watson, 24.54; T4. Sydnee Larkin, 24.54; 9. Jaiden Paris, 25.13; 100 meter hurdles: 2. Jaiden Paris, 14.12; 300 meter hurdles: 3. Jaiden Paris, 44.96; 3,200 meters: 5. Caitlin McConnell, 11:07.57; Long jump: 1. Sydnee Larkin, 19 feet, 6 inches; 2. Chian DeLoach, 18-5 1/4; Triple jump: 1. Sydnee Larkin, 41-9; 4×100 meter relay: 1. Cherokee Trail, 46.79; 4×200 meter relay: 1. Cherokee Trail, 1:41.35; 4×400 meter relay: 5. Cherokee Trail, 4:01.89; 4×800 meter relay: 4. Cherokee Trail, 9:42.61; 800 meter sprint medley relay: 1. Cherokee Trail, 1:45.38