Cherokee Trail’s boys track team burst with athletic talent this season.
But the reason coach Chris Faust’s team hoisted the Class 5A state championship trophy on May 18 came outside of its immense ability to run and jump.
Sacrifice proved to be the most vital ingredient to the Cougars, who won the meet-closing 4×400-meter relay at Jefferson County Stadium to wrap up the program’s first 5A state title and second overall.
“This the best track team we’ve ever had at Cherokee Trail; these guys won because they approached this as a team sport, and not as individuals,” said Faust, still drying off from a cold celebratory shower after the Cougars posted a 10.5-point victory over runner-up Fountain-Fort Carson.
“These guys have been focused on this since November, but they wouldn’t have won it if they had approached it as individuals,” he added.
“Every one of these kids stepped up.”
From the start of practice, Faust knew he had more overall talent than his team that won the 4A state title in 2007. The only question was if his athletes would accept roles to benefit the team.
Senior sprinter Jaylyn Mars fit in immediately after he transferred from Mullen and adopted the team-first mentality quickly.
Mars took 3rd in the open 200 and 400 meters, 5th in the 100 and led off the championship-winning 4×200 relay team along with Evan White, Devin Arnold and Brandon Singleton.
That’s 19 points individually and 10 with the relay team, all vital in a championship chase that came down to the final race.
“As an individual, of course I wanted to place higher in my events, but at the end of the day, every point matters,” Mars said. “It’s a team, it’s not just me. I’ve won things before, but it’s not as good as winning with other people. We totally executed and we accomplished our goal.”
Singleton did yeoman’s work as well, placing 2nd in the 400 and 4th in the 200, as well as anchoring the 4×200 and a 4×400 team — including Leighton LaFrambois, MarKeith Bailey and Arnold — that won a state title to seal the championship.
Singleton credited other Cherokee Trail runners who subbed in during relay prelims for helping save the legs of the teams that racked up the big points.
“I’m proud of my team; we weren’t selfish,” said Singleton, who thumped the baton on his chest in celebration as he crossed the finish line to win the 4×400.
“Most people see track as an individual sport, but it’s actually a team sport,” he added. “Once we realized that, we knew we could win the state championship.”
Arnold experienced the agony of Cherokee Trail’s loss to Valor Christian in the 5A state football championship game on Dec. 1, but was determined to win a track title.
He placed third in the long jump and ran on the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 relays.
“After we lost the state championship in football, I knew this was what we had to do,” Arnold said. “ We brought it all together, nobody was selfish at all. I’m so thankful we’re in this position.”
It started with junior Harley Korte and senior Mitchell Waltz, who scored 10.5 points in the pole vault. Korte cleared 14 feet, 6 inches, to come in second, while Waltz picked up 2.5 points by tying for seventh.
The Cougars kept adding points, as David Thornton picked one up in the high jump and Elijah Warnick got one in the triple jump. They trailed Cherry Creek by 7.5 points going into the last day with all the big points at stake.
Cherokee Trail athletes lined the fences every 10 yards during the 4×400 relay to shout encouragement, which helped the Cougars rally to victory.
“I’m so proud of these guys, it’s unbelieveable,” Faust said.
Aurora boys collected four other state championships: Gateway senior Zack Golditch won his second straight discus title, Regis Jesuit junior Jordan Hatfield took his first in the pole vault, Grandview senior Jordan Charles ruled the 110-meter hurdles and Eaglecrest senior Marcus Harris won the 100 meters.
For Harris, it was the first time in four trips to state that he didn’t scratch out of a final because of injury. The Colorado State recruit threw up his hands as he crossed the finish line and zipped another 50 meters with a smile on his face.
“I was so happy, everything that was built up just came out at the end,” Harris said. “This is one of the happiest moments of my life honestly.”
Golditch became Gateway’s first-ever two-time state track champion and nearly won another in the shot put.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at email@example.com or 303-750-7555
2013 CLASS 5A BOYS STATE TRACK STANDINGS
Team scores: 1. CHEROKEE TRAIL, 74.5 points; 2. Fountain-Fort Carson 64; 3. Cherry Creek 62; 4. Ft. Collins 53; 5. Castle View 47; 6. GRANDVIEW 45; 7. Highlands Ranch 35; 8. GATEWAY 33; 9. Poudre 32; 10. Chatfield 27; 11. Liberty 25; 12. Chaparral 23; 13. ThunderRidge 21; 14. Fossil Ridge 20; 15. Rampart 18; 16. Palmer 17; T17. EAGLECREST 16; T17. Loveland 16; T17. Ralston Valley 16; 20. Fairview 15.5; T21. REGIS JESUIT 14; T21. Columbine 14; T21. Greeley West 14; 24. Arapahoe 11.5; T25. RANGEVIEW 10; T25. Rock Canyon 10; T25. Douglas County 10; T28. SMOKY HILL 9; T28. Heritage 9; T28. Mountain Vista 9; T28. Legacy 9; 32. Doherty 8.5; 33. Littleton 8; 34. Grand Junction 7; T35. Rocky Mountain 6; T35. Pomona 6; T35. Pine Creek 6; T38. Abraham Lincoln 3; T38. Bear Creek 3; 40. Prairie View 1
AURORA BOYS STATE TRACK PLACERS BY SCHOOL
CHEROKEE TRAIL: Devin Arnold (3rd, long jump); Harley Korte (2nd, pole vault); Jaylyn Mars (5th, 100 meters/3rd, 200 meters/3rd, 400 meters); Brandon Singleton (4th, 200 meters/2nd, 400 meters); David Thornton (9th, high jump); Mitchell Waltz (T7th, pole vault); Elijah Warnick (9th, triple jump); Relays: 4×100 (8th), 4×200 (State champion), 4×400 (State champion); EAGLECREST: Marcus Harris (State champion, 100 meters); Connor McClaran (4th, shot put); GATEWAY: Zack Golditch (State champion, discus/2nd, shot put), Devundrick Walker (2nd, 800 meters); Relays: 4×400 (3rd); GRANDVIEW: Jordan Charles (State champion, 110 meter hurdles/2nd, 300 hurdles); Steven Clopine (6th, high jump/9th, pole vault); JR Smith (4th, long jump); Relays: 4×100 (2nd), 4×200 (2nd); RANGEVIEW: Dezant Burks-Hetherington (6th, triple jump); Jordan Medina (4th, 400 meters); REGIS JESUIT: Jordan Hatfield (State champion, pole vault); John Schmidt (8th, 100 meters/8th, 200 meters); SMOKY HILL: Tesfai Holt (5th, pole vault); Blake Yount (6th, 800 meters)