Chris Faust took a little page out of the playbook of retiring Grandview coach John Reyes when he addressed his Cherokee Trail boys track team prior to the state meet.
There was good reason to draw from Reyes — one of the state’s most highly-regarded coaches who guided the Wolves to back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022 — so Faust relayed a pointed message to his team.
“I completely stole something from John Reyes; I told them that ‘You may not be the clear cut favorites like Grandview was last year, but you’ve been the best boys team in the state all year, so just do that one more time,’” said Faust, who got just that type of performance from his Cougars May 18-20.
Of course it helps to have the presence of a special athlete like sophomore Peyton Sommers, who was one of the stars of the show in any classification as witnessed by the masses at Jefferson County Stadium.
Sommers won individual crowns in the 200 and 400 meter dashes, finished as the runner-up in the 100 meters and anchored the state championship-winning 4×200 relay team to be directly or partly responsible for 38 of the 74 points accrued by the Cougars, who hand plenty to outlast Valor Christian (58), plus Vista Ridge and classification newcomer Erie, which tied for third with 51.
“I can’t describe this, just all this hard work our team went through paid off,” Sommers said after he helped earn the program’s third all-time boys state title to match the 5A crown won in 2013 and the 4A title in 2007.
“Forget all the individual stuff, we wanted to win a state championship and that’s what we all committed to, so that’s what is for me,” he added.
In the context of the team championship, the individual stuff won’t be forgotten, though. Sommers used the fuel from a close second-place finish in to Hills — who earlier in the meet set the all-classification Colorado state record in the long jump — for a big finish that was vital to his team’s championship hopes.
He held off Malone on the final straightaway to win the 400 meters in 46.77 seconds, then less than two hours later, he ran a 21.10 to beat Hills to the finish line by just 0.02 of a second.
Faust has tracked results since he started coaching the program when Cherokee Trail opened in 2003 and he said Sommers has entered uncharted territory, while there is still more to come for him.
“He’s the fastest sophomore in Colorado history,” Faust said. “He was fast before, but this weekend he became an experienced sprinter. He ran prelims fast enough to make finals and today, he ran the 400 exactly perfectly against the defending state champion (Castle View’s Ace Malone), came back and ran the 200 and barely beat arguably the toughest kid in the state (Vista Ridge’s Brandon Hills). It was fantastic.”
On the second day of the meet, Sommers anchored the team of sophomore Kaelan Kombo, junior Kahari Wilbon and senior Jaylon Moore to victory in the 4×200 meter relay as the Cougars ran a time of 1 minute, 25.65 seconds, that was well on front of the 1:27.08 turned in by Brighton.
Wilbon had this to say about Sommers: “Peyton is a monster. I want to be him some day. I’m so glad he is on our team, because if I had to go against him, I’d be pissed. I’m glad to have him as a teammate and practice partner and somebody I can trust.
“He’s entered a new scope and he’s maturing in himself to become a better athlete.”
Sommers certainly didn’t do it alone, however.
The opening day of the meet saw a runner-up finish in the 4×800 meter relay from the team of senior Reuben Holness, sophomore McKay Larsen, junior Brady Smith and senior Beck Gutjahr.
The Cougars were the defending state champions in the event and had a lead for a second title when the baton got dropped on the exchange from Smith to Gutjahr, who couldn’t chase down the anchor leg for Mountain Vista, which proceeded to set the state record.
It was the first of two runner-up finishes in relay events for Cherokee Trail, which also came in second in the meet-closing 4×400 meter relay. At the the Centennial League Championships, the team of Kombo, Wilbon, Gutjahr and Sommers set the Colorado state record of 3:13.02, but the group couldn’t run together with Sommers entered in so many events.
Holness took the anchor spot and Cherokee Trail almost still won, but got passed by ThunderRidge, which set the 5A state meet record.
Individually, Gutjahr added a third-place finish in the 800 meter run, Kombo came in fourth in the 400 meters and ninth in the 200 and junior Lavelle Kabeya-Kombo took ninth for the Cougars, who sealed the win when the 4×100 relay team of Moore, Benjamin Reichert, Marquis Jamison and Kalib Davis finished fifth.
Rangeview finished in a tie for 12th place with 24 points, most of which were earned by a state championship won by senior Micah Dobson and a runner-up from junior Jaheim Alexander.
Dobson missed the finals last season and had a personal best of 41 feet, 4 inches, but came a long way this season. After taking a nap during a lengthy lightning delay, he jumped 46-1 1/2 in the finals that won the event by a good margin.
“With the wind in our faces, it was a decent jump,” Dobson said. “I thought it was going to be even bigger, but that wind will catch you.”
Alexander was the fastest 110-meter hurdler in prelims and finished in second place behind Denver East star Nigel James.
A large cast of standouts graduated in the wake of Grandview’s back-to-back state championship team and the Wolves — who competed without standout David Maldonado, who was injured in practice prior to state — finished 15th. Senior Gibby Leafgreen turned in top-eight finishes in in both hurdles events
All 16 of Overland’s points came from sophomore Jarrius Ward, who was runner-up to club teammate Charles Lafore of Chatfield in both the 5A discus and shot put.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports