LAKEWOOD — Michelle Hickey never quite believed she could take that next step, regardless of the constant positive reinforcement she has received from her coach.
In each of the past two years, the senior from Lyons has steadily progressed up the food chain among shot putters in Class 2A. As a sophomore, she placed seventh at the state meet. Last year, she moved up to fourth. Most seniors would make their next goal nothing short of that top spot, yet Hickey admits she never truly believed a state championship was possible.
On Thursday, Hickey made a believer out of herself, contributing to a big first day for Lyons at the state track and field finals by winning the Class 2A shot put title. Junior Nola Basey added a state championship in the high jump as the Lions made a strong opening salvo in their quest to win a second consecutive team title.
“My biggest problem was mental. The whole season, I didn’t believe I could ever do it,” Hickey said. “Then before the state meet my coach kept calling me the state champion in the shot put in the hallways. So building up my confidence was a big deal. I started to realize I could do this.”
Hickey came into the meet seeded fourth but dominated the field at Jeffco Stadium. Hickey established a new personal-best mark of 36 feet, 9 inches on her second throw during the preliminary rounds, and the senior was even better during the finals. Hickey ultimately ended with a winning throw of 37-9, out-throwing runner-up Holly Lepro of Rangely by 41/4 inches.
“That’s great to save your best throw for your last throw of your career,” Lyons coach Mark Roberts said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with Michelle. She and I have gone around and around about the shot for a long time, and it’s neat to see her put it all together at the state meet when it really counts for her team.”
Basey continued her rapid ascension as one of the top all-around athletes in Class 2A by collecting her first state title in the high jump. The runner-up last year in the high jump as well as the long jump, Basey matched her personal best with a winning leap of 5-6.
Basey also placed third in the long jump with a mark of 17-2, which eclipsed her previous personal best by four inches. Basey was quick to credit the help of teammate Olivia Raspotnik, who placed seventh in the high jump, for helping her to maintain focus during the long, hot day at Jeffco Stadium.
“It helps a ton. She’s been my No. 1 supporter out there,” Basey said. “We don’t really compete against each other, we compete against the other teams. It feels good and it’s definitely important, because we’ll need every point we can get.”
Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07