LAKEWOOD — A day after emphatically breaking the Class 3A 3,200-meter relay state meet record by 12 seconds, the Peak to Peak girls relay runners returned to Jefferson County Stadium on Sunday intent on reasserting their distance dominance.
On the second and final day of the state track and field championships, the Pumas made their statement in the open 1,600-meter run. The Pumas' strategy was different without a baton to hand off, but they're abundance of talent and teamwork were equally impressive.
Pumas sophomore Anna Shults claimed the gold medal with a first-place time of 5 minutes, 0.71 seconds. Fellow sophomore Quinn McConnell finished second in 5:02.26. Tiana Bradfield, a third Pumas sophomore, took third in 5:08.59 and senior Rachael Metzler placed sixth in 5:16.70.
"The race went by in a flash," Shults said. "My teammates helped push me along and I could not have done it without them. It really means a lot. Yesterday, we won the 4x800 and we wanted to keep our win streak going so we could place well overall in the meet. And for our teammate Brandon (Ries), who passed away running in the fall, we do everything for him.
"We run for him and we ran with our hearts today, just like he would have."
Pumas teammate and cross country captain Brandon Ries died unexpectedly during a cross country race in the fall. The Pumas all wore pins in his honor throughout the state meet this weekend.
With their departed teammate in mind, the Pumas' top three runners jumped out to an early lead over the field and controlled the entire race on Sunday. The final 400-meters turned into an all-out race between Shults and McConnell, but Shults pulled away down the final 200 meters and crossed the finish line less than two seconds ahead of her teammate. Bradfield crossed the finish line shortly thereafter to celebrate with Shults and McConnell, and Metzler came across a bit later to give the Pumas a fourth medalist in the top six.
"This was 100-percent a team effort, really," Shults said. "It was all of us working together. I knew the whole way that they were right behind me pushing me along, or right next to me pushing me to go faster. It was incredible."
Earlier in the day on Sunday, McConnell placed second in the open 800 with a time of 2:13.38. In that same race, Bradfield placed fourth in 2:17.24. Later in the day, the Pumas teamed up once more to place sixth in the 1,600-meter relay with a time of 4:10.14.
Largely thanks to their distance runners, the Peak to Peak girls finished third in the 3A team scoring with 75 points.