The Hinkley boys track team didn’t need its Last Chance meet to make a statement before the Class 5A state track meet, but the Thunderbirds used it to their advantage.
While other teams prepped for the May 19-21 state meet Jefferson County Stadium at league championships, coach Chris Carhart’s group put on a head-turning performance on their home track.
Junior Darrien Wells dropped a time of 49.15 seconds in the 400 meters to take over the top spot in 5A, and the 4×400 relay team temporarily took the state lead as well in another outstanding performance for a Hinkley team that is as large and loaded as it has been for the state meet in a long time.
Behind the massive efforts of Wells and sophomore Angel Heredia, the Thunderbirds won the EMAC championship — a first in program history — and continue to gain steam.
“I’ve never seen a group of guys that like to race as much as they do,” Carhart said. “Darrien keeps getting faster and faster because the competition keeps getting faster. He seems to do enough to win every race he’s in, no matter how fast the race is. Angel is the same way, they are just battlers.
“They have a lot of fun and they just like to compete.”
Both Wells and Heredia will get plenty of chances to compete at the state meet, as they both have a slate of three open events — the 100, 200 and 400 meters for Wells and the 110- and 300-meter hurdles and long jump for Heredia — in addition to their work on the 4×400 meter relay.
That relay, comprised of Wells, Heredia, sophomore Oscar Sarabia and senior Sean Carey, blew away even its own goals of a time of 3 minutes, 28 seconds, in the Last Chance meet with a time of 3:23.35 that for took the top spot in 5A for a short time until Fountain-Fort Carson dropped a 3:21.22 at the Colorado Springs Metro League Championship meet.
Wells (the EMAC MVP) and Heredia have individual titles they are after and the best bets seem to be in the 400 meters for Wells and the 300 meter hurdles for Heredia.
The time of 49.15 seconds Wells recorded at the last chance meet rocketed him to the top of the 5A leaderboard, just .01 of a second ahead of another Aurora contender, Centennial League champion Cameron Murray of Overland.
“I think the 400 is honestly a mind race,” Wells said. “It’s just who wants it, and I definitely want it. I’m not going to let up. There’s going to be crazy competition, so I think that’s going to be something to watch at state.”
Wells could also make the finals in the 200 meters (where he’s seeded No. 7), while he has some ground to make up in the 100 (No. 16).
Heredia’s hunger in the 300 hurdles was stoked by his state appearance last season, when he finished just .01 out of the finals.
He has been training hard to not leave his fate to such a minuscule margin and has recorded the third-fastest time in 5A (39.00 seconds) going into state.
“I would say I was a little cheated out of it last year, so I’m coming back with a vengeance,” Heredia said. “I’m looking to win the 300s. I’ve been out in front all year and I’m happy to have some guys who will have a lead on me and so I can try to catch them with the extra adrenaline.”
Heredia is also a good candidate to make the finals in the 110 hurdles and he’s eager to see what he can do in the long jump, where he’s jumped over 22 feet already in limited chances after barely making it over 20 feet all of last season.
Hinkley senior QuaSean Smith popped a shot put throw of 51 feet, 4 1/2 inches at the Last Chance meet that sends him into state in the No. 5 position.
While Hinkley could garner big points from its small group, Cherokee Trail and Regis Jesuit could contend for the 5A team title as well.
Coach Chris Faust’s Cougars take nine individual state qualifiers into state and are loaded up to score significant points in relays (top seed in the 4×100 and 4×200), while seniors David Thornton and Ta’Mar Wilson and junior KJ Sapp could light up the scoreboard in the jumps.
Thornton is Colorado’s leader in the high jump with his 7-foot effort earlier in the season and should battle Regis Jesuit senior Austin Campbell (6-9) and late-rising Grandview senior Uche Obinnah (6-6) for Aurora and state domination.
Sapp and Wilson share the No. 1 seed in the long jump (which features a total of eight Aurora qualifiers from five different schools, including EMAC champion Chance Walker of Rangeview) and Wilson is also a threat in the triple jump as well. Sophomore Blaize Holland could be a key figure if he can make finals in either the open 200 or 400 meters and he also anchors the Cougars’ 4×200 and 4×400 relays.
Regis Jesuit expects big performances from Campbell in the high jump and long jump, while the Raiders have a potential top-three finisher in both distance events in senior Jack Davidson, plus healing sprinter Javan Lanier and two pole vaulters who have gone over 14 feet this season in juniors Geoff Lord and Jason Lewis.
Sophomore Tama Tuitele won the Continental League title in both the shot put and discus and is another weapon for the Raiders.
Grandview features the second-seeded 4×100 meter relay and could pick up points in all four relay events, while junior Robert Moss has top-three potential in the shot put.
On the girls side, Vista PEAK sophomore Maya Evans and Grandview junior Brie Oakley have multiple-championship potential.
Evans is a good bet to repeat as 4A long jump state champion and will also aim to top 21 feet and potentially set a state record, while she is also a contender to win the 100 and 200 meters.
Oakley owns the top times in 5A in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters and if she wins two titles and junior Michaela Onyenwere places in three events, Grandview could finish high in the team standings.
Cherokee Trail has a tough road to repeat as state champions — and will compete without two key pieces of last season’s championship team in seniors Amazing Ashby and Haley Rogers, both sidelined for most of the season by injury — but sophomore Sydnee Larkin and some stacked relays should give the Cougars a big boost of points.
Larkin’s fellow sophomores Aumni Ashby, Jaiden Paris and Chian Deloach could score significantly as well, while senior Symonne Holland comes in after winning the Centennial League title in the 400 meters.
Faust acknowledges that Fort Collins is likely the team to beat, but Cherokee Trail has the chance to place in at least four of the five relay events and fare well in the jumping events.
Regis Jesuit features a dual-threat hurdler in sophomore Kylie Davis, while Rangeview freshman sprinter Dawnielle Lewis will try to make an impact in her state debut.
Eaglecrest had an outstanding Centennial League meet in the relay events and could potentially score in four of the five events at state.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2016 CLASS 5A-1A STATE TRACK MEET
May 19-21 at Jefferson County Stadium (full time schedule, here)
AURORA 5A/4A STATE TRACK PARTICIPANTS BY SCHOOL
AURORA CENTRAL: Boys (2) — Dominick Jackson, sr. (high jump); Mike Retland, sr. (shot put)
CHEROKEE TRAIL: Boys (9) — Ruben Estrada, jr. (discus/shot put); Randall Evans, sr. (400 meters); Blaize Holland, soph. (200 meters/400 meters); Thomas MacLean, jr. (400 meters); Donovan Ridley, sr. (shot put); KJ Sapp, jr. (100 meters/200 meters/long jump); Ta’Mar Wilson, sr. (long jump/triple jump); David Thornton, sr. (high jump); Rylan Wallace, jr. (3,200 meters); Relays (4): 4×100, 4×200, 4×400 and 4×800
Girls (9) — Aumni Ashby, soph. (long jump/triple jump); Chian Deloach, soph. (long jump); Jordan Herrera, jr. (1,600 meters); Symonne Holland, sr. (400 meters); Sydnee Larkin, soph. (100 meters/200 meters/long jump/triple jump); Amy McConnell, sr. (3,200 meters); Kenzie McLelland, sr. (shot put); Jaiden Paris, soph. (200 meters/100 meter hurdles/300 meter hurdles); Taylor Watson, soph. (100 meters); Relays (4): 4×100, 4×200, 4×400 and 4×800
EAGLECREST: Boys — Jalen Martin, jr. (100 meters/200 meters); Relays (2): 4×100 & 4×200
Girls (2) — Codi Jarmond, sr. (shot put); Mia Steele, soph. (long jump); Relays (4): 4×100, 4×200, 4×400 & 800 sprint medley
GRANDVIEW: Boys (7) — Hayden Blubaugh, jr. (long jump); Jacob Braaksma, sr. (pole vault); Neil Brown, sr. (triple jump); Aaron Harris, soph. (long jump); Stefon McClunney, jr. (400 meters); Robert Moss, jr. (shot put); Uche Obinnah, sr. (high jump); Relays (4): 4×100, 4×200, 4×400 & 4×800
Girls (5) — Kennede Brown, jr. (100 meter hurdles/300 meter hurdles); Alisha Davis, fr. (long jump); Kaitlyn Mercer, fr. (800 meters); Brie Oakley, jr. (800 meters/1,600 meters/3,200 meters); Michaela Onyenwere, jr. (100 meters/200 meters/400 meters/long jump); Relays (2): 4×100 & 4×800
HINKLEY: Boys (3) — Angel Heredia, soph. (110 meter hurdles/300 meter hurdles/long jump); QuaSean Smith, sr. (shot put); Darrien Wells, jr. (100 meters/200 meters/400 meters); Relay: 4×400
Girls — Sierra Arceneaux, soph. (200 meters); Relay: 4×100
OVERLAND: Boys (2) — Paulison Fasu, jr. (110 meter hurdles); Cameron Murray, soph. (200 meters/400 meters); Relays (2): 4×100 & 4×200
Girls — Relays (2): 4×100 & 4×200
RANGEVIEW: Boys (5) — Diondre Johnson, jr. (triple jump); EJ Reed, sr. (high jump); Mathew Thomas, jr. (triple jump); Chance Walker, sr. (long jump); DeVante’ Wheaten, sr. (200 meters); Relays (2): 4×100 & 4×200
Girls — Dawnielle Lewis, fr. (100 meters/200 meters)
REGIS JESUIT: Boys (8) — Austin Campbell, sr. (high jump, long jump); Ryan Cornell, sr. (triple jump); Jack Davidson, sr. (1,600 meters/3,200 meters); Daniel Hogan, sr. (400 meters); Javan Lanier, sr. (100 meters/200 meters/long jump); Jason Lewis, jr. (110 meter hurdles/300 meter hurdles/pole vault); Geoffrey Lord, jr. (pole vault); Tama Tuitele, soph. (discus/shot put)
Girls (2) — Kylie Davis, soph. (100 meter hurdles/300 meter hurdles); Bree Hysaw, jr. (100 meters); Relays (3): 4×100, 4×200 & 4×400
SMOKY HILL: Boys (2) – Tahir Hopkins, sr. (400 meters); Isaiah Sanford, jr. (triple jump); Relays (2): 4×200 & 4×400
Girls (4) — Carlie Andrie, jr. (pole vault); Deidre Cooney, sr. (discus); Amelia Johannes, fr. (300 meter hurdles); Choying O’Brien, fr. (pole vault); Relay: 4×400
VISTA PEAK (4A): Boys — LaTrail Thompson, sr. (200 meters)
Girls (2) — Maya Evans, soph. (100 meters/200 meters/long jump); Kamryn Scott, soph. (400 meters); Relay: 800 sprint medley