LAKEWOOD — During the past two years, there was no question the Niwot girls track and field team was led by star Elise Cranny.
She was the main reason the Cougars won Class 4A state titles in 2013 and 2014.
So, what did the Cougars do without her this week? They won again, of course.
Led by a plethora of talented athletes, Niwot won its third consecutive Class 4A title on Saturday at Jefferson County Stadium, outlasting second-place Mountain View, 85 points to 59.5.
“This is, by far, one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, being a part of a team that cares about each other as much as they do,” senior Rachel Sharpe said. “This is a team that I am so proud to be winning this with. I feel like it’s been an incredible few years and it’s just amazing to be able to do it for our coaches that have done so much for us, too.”
While the record-setting Cranny is now making noise at Stanford University, the Cougars and coach Maurice Henriques certainly aren’t without some star power. Niwot seemed set on proving to everybody on the outside that they were just fine without Cranny.
“I think this time around it’s special because we don’t have that Elise Cranny 30-point machine,” said junior Kela Fetters, who won the 300-meter hurdles on Saturday. “It’s a collective team stepping up and just doing what needs to be done.”
They may not have a 30-point machine, but freshman Mackenzie Fidelak is getting there. After anchoring Niwot’s victory in the 800-meter relay on Friday, Fidelak scored 23 points on Saturday. She was second in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles and third in the 400 meters.
Despite being a newcomer, Fidelak has soaked up the team-first approach.
“It was probably like 90 percent the team and 10 percent me, honestly,” she said of her motivation this week. “You can tell how much everyone wants it. It’s amazing.”
While the Cougars scored points in a variety of areas, this team championship will most likely be remembered for what they did in the hurdles.
Early on Saturday, sophomore Alexis Carroll won the 100-meter hurdles by edging Fidelak by .003 of a second.
Then, in the 300 hurdles, Fetters leaned to beat her freshman teammate by a mere .05 of a second.
“That’s what our goal from the beginning was, to have the best hurdle crew in 4A, and I think we did that,” Fetters said, who clocked in at 44.10 seconds in the 300 hurdles. “I just wanted it so badly and I knew my biggest competition was going to be my very own teammate, and that’s something really special.”
In addition to the hurdles, the Cougars got a fifth-place finish in the 400 from Sharpe, and the 1,600-meter relay team closed the day with a second-place finish.
Niwot, in fact, registered top-three finishes in three different relays this week, as well as scoring points in the long jump and pole vault.
“We wanted more than anything to just prove to people that we have a team and there’s no greater feeling to know we’ve done it and we’ve done it as a unit and people know that,” Sharpe said.
This week proved that, while Cranny may have put the Cougars on the map, they’ve got a complete program that is on a roll.
In fact, they are rolling so well that at the conclusion of the 300 hurdles, Fetters turned to Fidelak and said, “Oh, coach isn’t going to like those times.”
Asked about that a moment later, Fetters said, “He wanted us to run in the 43s, but I think the most important thing for him was winning.”
That seems to be the Niwot way these days.
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