NIWOT — For several years now, Mary Gillett has been a fixture in multiple spots throughout the Niwot girls track and field team's vaunted lineup.
Whether it's been relays or individual events, Gillett has been a steady contributor to the Cougars' recent run of state title contending seasons. But for her junior year in 2017, Gillett felt like the time had come to chase her full potential and go for gold.
In terms of gold medals, Gillett ended the season with two of the precious prizes. She also left the 2017 state championships with a pair of silver medals in Class 4A. Scoring 36 points in her four individual events at the state meet and leading the Cougars to a second-place finish in the team competition, Gillett has earned the BoCoPreps.com girls track and field athlete of the year award.
"I think the reason for my success this year was my coaching staff and my teammates, and my family, they're all very supportive," Gillett said. "The offseason was a big thing for me going into this year. At the start, I kind of had goals like getting top five at state in the 400. It took my coaches to show me that I could do more and that a state title was attainable."
Far exceeding her own early expectations, Gillett won the 4A 200-meter dash with a time of 24.83 seconds and also won the 400-meter race in 55.12. She finished runner-up to senior teammate Alexis Carroll in the long jump, hitting a mark of 18 feet, 2.5 inches, and took second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.31.
Having just returned from the Great Southwest Classic in Albuquerque, NM, last weekend, Gillett plans to test her mettle at the upcoming New Balance Nationals, where she will run the 400-meter dash. Having cemented a spot among Colorado's elite prep track and field athletes and taking an aggressive approach to the national summer circuit, Gillett is as thrilled as her coaches with her recent emergent campaign.
"I'm really pleased with where I'm at in my high school career," Gillett said. "This season was a big step forward for me and I hope I can keep it going this summer and come back and defend a couple of those state titles next year."
With its ability to produce multi-talented athletes like Gillett and Carroll, who won both the 4A long jump and triple jump at this year's state meet and scored 25.25 team points, the Niwot girls track team won three consecutive 4A team titles from 2013 to 2015 and has finished third or better in each of the past five seasons. With Gillett and a number of talented athletes returning for 2018, the Cougars figure to be back in mix next year as well.
"Obviously, we were disappointed not winning it this year," Cougars head coach Maurice Henriques said. "But to be honest, I felt like our team pretty much did all that we could. Our hats go off to Air Academy. As far as our girls, for Alexis Carroll to go out like that as a senior was unbelievable. We had a lot of girls who worked out and trained year-round, and continue to make their imprint on our team. And Mary was a perfect example of our program and how hard we work.
"Everybody wants to throw that word 'talent' out there, but they don't see the girls giving it their all at practice until they're bent over puking. We have a good group of girls, we're already working hard and we'll be in the conversation again next year."