By Melissa Stedman
The Pirate track and field team competed at the State 3A Track and Field Championships in Lakewood at the Jefferson County Stadium May 16-18.
The Pirates girls’ team placed third out of 53 teams, and one Pirate athlete captured a state title.
“I knew we could get there, so that was just a huge accomplishment. We’re still a fairly small team, but we just have some really outstanding athletes,” Coach Scott White explained.
Junior Taylor Strohecker placed first in the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, one inch. It was the second consecutive state win for Strohecker in the event.
“Taylor was coming in as a defending state champ,” White said. “And one of the things I was impressed with is none of the girls had a good jumping day, but Taylor went out and got it done. It was a wierd day, and nobody was hitting their mark. She was happy to be the state champ, but she was dissapointed her jump wasn’t what she was hoping for. What we as coaches like about that is it doesn’t matter what you come in ranked as, or how high you jump, what matters is that you out-jump everybody else that day, and that is just what she did. She prevailed. When everyone else’s jumping wasn’t all that good she came through and got it done. When I first saw her after her jump, she didn’t look very happy. She said that she didn’t jump really that good, but that just shows she wants to get better. She has the chance to be three-time state champ. We are really proud of her, coming out there on a not-so-great day and still prevailing.”
Madie Lewis placed eighth in the 400 meter dash with a time of 1:00.50. Lewis placed 11th in the girls’ 800 at 2:26.01.
“The eight hundred is a really nasty race,” White explained, “It’s a horribly mean race. You’ve got eighteen people on the track at the same time; it’s pretty much a sprint and people always fall. She had to hurdle over somebody and it’s just a really tough, tough race. She got eleventh in that. That was a really good job for a freshman.”
Lewis holds the Pagosa Springs High School record for the girls’ 400 with a time of 1:00.39.
Junior Emily Bryant placed eighth in the 1600 with a time of 5:28.35. In the 3,200 she finished in fifth place at 12:13.12.
“She had a really, really good track meet,” White said. “She scored seven points for the team and did a really great job. I think she’s about eight seconds off the record in the mile and she’s not too far off the two mile team.”
The team of Olivia Reinhardt, Bryant, Lewis and Tayler Lee-Hammer placed sixth in the 4×800 relay with a time of 10:03.56.
This was the final year for seniors Toni Stoll and Gabby Pajak, and they produced results.
Stoll placed seventh in the 100 meter hurdles at 16.62, and fifth in the 300 at 48.24. She took second in the triple jump with a distance of 37 feet, 6.75 inches. In the long jump Stoll was sixth, at 16-09.5.
“It was one of those things where she came ranked number one in the triple,” White explained. “She just did a great job and it’s just typical at a state track meet — a girl got her at the last jump and beat her by two inches. Toni had a great year. She was one of our most consistent and highest point-getters all year, by far. She’s going off to Western State College to run. To me, she is just that typical kid who would do anything for you, work hard, never-misses-a-practice kinda kid. We’re going to miss her like crazy, we really are. I just love her competitiveness. She’s just so intense. It was heart breaking for her, it really was, but I think she knows that this is not the end for her and she will be jumping in college.”
Pajak also ran in the 100 and the 300. In the 100, Pajak placed second with a time of 14.87. In the 300 she took second at 43.89.
“Gabby, probably out of everybody, boys and girls, had the best meet. Gabby ended up second place in the one hundred and broke a state record. She doesn’t get to keep that record, however, because the girl who got first place broke the record as well,” White explained.
In the long jump Pajak placed second with a distance of 17-5. She placed third in the triple, at 36-09.25
Pajak holds the Pagosa Springs High School records for the 100 meter hurdles, at 14.87, the 300 meter hurdles, at 43.89, and the girls’ long jump, at 17-5.
“I’m going to miss her like crazy,” White explained, “She doesn’t plan on running track in college, but you never know. There were definitely scouts looking at her. I got several e-mails for both those girls (Pajak and Stoll) from all over the state, college coaches who are really interested in those two particular girls since they are seniors. I don’t know what to say; it’s an end to an era. They competed in all of the same events; they push each other. We have this great picture of them in the middle of the field in their last meet, even hugging each other after four years. I don’t know if we can replace kids like that, but you never know — every year something new happens.
“This was a really great meet for those girls,” White explained, “Getting third out of fifty-three really says a lot about our girls. I’m really proud of them. They did a great, great job. We’ll see what next year brings us. We’ve got some good freshman runners, we’ve got some eighth-graders coming up next year that look really good. I know we have an eighth-grader who would have made it to the top eighteen in the long jump, so we’ve got the future coming up. And Taylor, she’s got a chance to be a three-time state champion which is a very difficult thing to do, and her big competition (this year) that tied for second is a senior, so that’s a chance.”
The boys’ team placed 23 out of 53.
In the 800, Colton Polezynski placed 10th, with a time of 2:00.8.
Dean Hampton, Daniel Sloan, Gerek Erskine and Jeremiah Miller ran in the 4×200 meter relay, placing ninth in the preliminaries with a time of 1:33.13 and finishing in the finals at ninth place with a time of 1:34.55.
Tate Drane, Polezynski, Sloan and David McRee placed third in the 4×800 with a time of 8:11.42.
“It was one of the most intense races I have ever seen,” White said. “Our boys got third place in the four-by-eight and with one hundred meters left in the race we were ahead, and Colton just gave it everything he could ever give. He fell across the finish line, I’m not even sure if he was even conscious. As a coach, you look at that and you know what he gave — he gave one-hundred percent and more. They were definitely bummed out because they were so close and led it for such a long time and then they ended up missing our record with a tenth of a second. It was great, they did a terrific job. Every one of those boys, except for Daniel, is coming back next year and we see a great future with them.
“We are due for a win in that four-by-eight because we’ve come so close in the past three or four years. We’ve been in second, we’ve been in third. We’ve been in the top five several times, so I think we are due for a win there. We’ve got some really good kids coming back next year.”
In the triple jump, Erskine placed fourth at 42-10.75.
“He broke our record; he shattered it. We always knew he had it,” White said. “We always knew that if Garek hit one just right with those big old long legs, that he was going to do it, and what a perfect time to do it. It was his last time; he doesn’t plan on running in college, so it was his last chance to get in there and surprise everybody, and that’s exactly what he did. As a senior and one of the kids on that state championship basketball team, it was just so fun to see him do that.”
At this time Erskine holds the Pagosa Springs High School record for the boys’ triple jump at 42-10.75.
“We’re bringing a lot of kids back,” White said. “We’ve got a lot of really good kids on the boys’ side coming back next year. A lot of mid-distance kids are coming back, so I see some really good things. I’m really looking forward to what the boys can do next year. I think the future is very bright for them.”