LONGMONT — Silver Creek's Rylee Anderson and Abigail Gray burst onto the scene as freshmen for the Raptors track and field team last season.
They were only ninth-graders then and the pressure was significant for both Gray, one of the state's best pole vaulters, and Anderson, the defending 4A high jump champion. Similarly talented and with an unexpected shared responsibility to help lead the Silver Creek track team, Gray and Anderson leaned on one another often to help each other stay focused and maintain their success.
A year later, the two girls have become close friends and still rely on one another as much as ever while they both seek state titles in 2016.
"We definitely motivate each other," Anderson said. "When I'm not jumping, I'll watch her and she'll do the same. We're always there for each other and we understand both events because they're kind of similar in some ways."
This season, though it has been limited by snowy weather, has already been an eventful one for the Raptors training partners and sophomore buddies.
In the first meet of the season, the Boulder Snow Invitational on March 12, Gray cleared 11-6 and broke Erin Ehrmantraut's school record. That same day, Anderson jumped 5-6 to add one inch to her own school record, which she previously took from Kristina Gould at the state meet last season.
"I wasn't expecting to break the school record and get a PR at the first meet," Gray said. "I was just trying to get a feel for it again. But I was really, really proud and having Rylee also do it was awesome because we're buddies and we're hoping to each other all the way back to state again."
Anderson cleared 5-5 at the state meet last season to win the Class 4A high jump title. So, her goal now is to defend it.
Gray, who surprisingly has been vaulting for less than two years, cleared 10-9 at state last season to place seventh. Her goal for 2016 is to crack the top three and possibly make a run at the title. Gray's best mark is a ways off from Classical Academy senior Andrea Willis, who won state last year with a 12-6 vault, but it's possible.
"I do Above the Bar (pole vault club) with her and she's great," Gray said. "She's hit like 13-4 so it's going to take a lot but I'm trying to start catching up. But Rylee is always there and we're constantly helping get each other in the right competitive mindset and to stay encouraged so that really helps. I struggle to compete by myself so when she's there, it's much easier."
With Gray and Anderson as the team's only state qualifiers, the Raptors girls placed 24th as a team at last year's state meet. But with increased depth this season, particularly in the distance events, the Raptors expect to have a few more girls in the state qualifying mix to help Gray and Anderson with the team scoring.
Gray and Anderson, while they are still young, have already emerged as the standard for Silver Creek track in 2016.
"These two sophomores, they're buds and we're really looking forward to seeing what they do this year," Raptors head coach Barbara Keith said. "This should be a fun season."