Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Brad Cochi/ BoCoPreps.com
Brad Cochi/ BoCoPreps.com
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Last spring, Fairview’s Marlena Preigh won the 800-meter run at the high-caliber indoor Simplot Games in February which signaled an impending breakout for the young runner.
Three months later, Preigh won the Class 5A 800-meter title at the Colorado state championships by edging heavy favorite Madison Mooney for the gold. This February, Preigh returned to Simplot and won again, only this time she set an 800-meter meet record of 2:06.80. Between her two latest massive victories, Preigh signed to run at the University of Washington next year.
It has been a exceptional year for the Knights’ star runner, and now that she has established herself as exactly that — a star — Preigh is ramping up for one more spectacular outdoor track and field season. It wasn’t obvious to her at the time but looking back now, Preigh can clearly see that first Simplot victory as the launching pad that propelled her prep running career to another level.
“It’s been really fun, kind of a little crazy even,” Preigh said. “I feel like I’ve stepped up the way that I do things. As I reach more of my goals, I’m even more motivated to train harder and be more dedicated. A lot of that has happened just over the last year. It’s really grown my confidence in what I can actually do and that might be the biggest difference of all.”
Her confidence may have changed significantly but Preigh is still the same humble, quiet kid she was before the title wave of winning that followed her watershed title at Simplot. That won’t change the fact that people on the outside view her differently now that she’s a state and national-level champion.
It also won’t stop Preigh from trying to win more, to strive to lower her times, and to continue pushing the Knights up the statewide team standings.
“She’s definitely in her element this year,” Fairview head coach Tricia Vieth said. “In the Mullen meet, she won the mile and then won the 800 just a couple hours later. That’s hard to do. Marlena is also just such a great teammate. For example, at our home meet tomorrow, she’ll be anchoring our sprint medley and our four-by-two just because she can run everything from the 100 to the two-mile and she wants to help the team in every way she can.”
Over the course of the past year, Preigh has joined several elite groups. One of them is the annual “who’s who” of the well-respected Boulder County area prep track and field scene.
Defending 5A pole vault champions Max and Mia Manson are out to defend their titles and in Mia Manson’s case, maybe win a few other events at state. Niwot’s Taylor James is already a known commodity as a sophomore and with the third fastest 800-meter time (2:07.12) in the nation, she was just ranked No. 36 by the MileSplit50 national rankings. Peak to Peak’s golden trio of seniors Quinn McConnell, Tiana Bradfield and Anna Shults will almost assuredly dominate the 3A distance events and relays for one last spring.
There’s also Mead’s Abbey Glynn, Silver Creek’s Samuel Dirkes, Legacy’s Brynn Siles, Niwot’s Cruz Culpepper … the list of local athletes from the BoCoPreps.com area who continue to shine on Colorado’s biggest stages just goes on and on. But there is a new wave of high-ceiling athletes following this current group who, like Preigh once was, appear poised for breakthroughs in the near future.
Here are 10 emerging standouts to keep an eye on in the BoCoPreps.com area:
Braden Bartlett, Sr., Holy Family: Holy Family junior Rasce Engelhardt winning the 3A 800-meter title at last year’s state meet despite being seeded 15th was perhaps the surprise performance of the entire event. Overshadowed by Engelhardt’s win was a fourth-place finish by Bartlett, who appears to have passed Engelhardt and is off to an excellent start in 2019.
Though he attends a smaller-classification school, Bartlett is currently the proud owner of the fifth best 800-meter time in Colorado, a 1:58.47 he ran last week at the Mullen Invitational.
Lucca Fulkerson, So., Niwot: Fulkerson is actually a student at Dawson School in Lafayette and runs cross country for the Mustangs during the fall. She has twice placed top-five in 2A at the cross country state meet and jumping way up in classification, Fulkerson is currently the 20th-ranked 3,200-meter runner in Colorado.
“Oh, she’s great,” Niwot head coach Maurice Henriquez said. “We’re lucky they don’t have track and she lives in Niwot so we can get her in the spring. She’s just scratching the surface, too.”
Sydney Holiday, Jr., Broomfield: It might be a bit of a stretch to have Holiday on this list considering she won multiple 1A state titles in Wyoming before transferring to Broomfield. But she certainly turned some heads in her Colorado debut at the Eagles’ host Broomfield Shootout. At the prestigious Arcadia Invitational last week, Holiday took fifth in the national invitational 100-meter race with a personal-best 11.83 and currently has a faster in-state time in the 200 (24.34) than Denver East star senior Arria Minor.
“I think the season is going really well for me,” Holiday said. “It’s going even better than I expected and I think it’s going to be good because it’s still the middle of the season and I can still keep getting better. I’m not getting tired yet like I have in the past and running in big meets like Arcadia makes it a lot easier to run faster times.”
Luke Johnson, Jr., Monarch: You won’t find Johnson’s name in the results from last year’s state meet because he wasn’t there. It’s hard to imagine that Johnson could sit out this spring’s state meet considering he currently owns the fastest 800-meter time in Class 5A after running a 1:56.32 at the Lyons Invitational on March 30. Johnson is second in the state only to Denver East’s Yasin Sado, who beat him by half a second at that same meet.
“Luke just started finding his pace at the end of the season,” Monarch head coach Kent Reider said. “He ran a 4:34 1,600 right at the end of his sophomore year. For some guys, it takes a little longer for them to hit their stride but it’s clicking for him and you can see it. I definitely think he can be a contender this spring.”
Eddie Kurjak, So., Longmont: Kurjak finished just outside the 4A high jump top 10 at state as a freshman last year, but has been a mainstay in a different top 10 this spring. That would be the top 10 best marks in the entire state. After clearing 6 feet, 4 inches at the Broomfield Shootout on March 23, he is Colorado’s leading sophomore and at the moment sits in a seven-way tie for ninth place overall, regardless of age or classification.
Colton Jonjak-Plahn, Sr., Lyons: Though it certainly has helped fill his trophy case with relay medals, being teammates with vaunted Lyons junior Isaac Roberts has frequently relegated Jonjak-Plahn to a supporting role. But the senior is capable of competing for a state title and we may see him win one this season. Last year, he placed fourth in 2A in the 800-meter run and is the lone returning senior among 2018’s top five placers, plus he’s mixing in some jumps and other events this spring.
Sophia Lindauer, Jr., Skyline: One of Skyline’s most versatile athletes, she had a rough state meet as a sophomore last spring and is using that as motivation in 2019. Through the early portion of her junior season, Lindauer has been a regular placer in several events — 100, 200, 400, high jump — and continues to slowly but steadily climb in the statewide rankings.
Lily Margolis, Sr., Boulder: Margolis’ name might be another surprise appearance on this list given how talented the Panthers senior has proven herself to be in a number of different events over the years. But because of injuries and bad luck, and though it is difficult to believe, Margolis has never medaled in an individual event at the Colorado state championships. Maybe this is the year.
Riley Negrey, Jr., Centaurus: A talented basketball player, Negrey made her debut at the Colorado track and field state championships as a sophomore last spring and ended up placing fourth in the 4A long jump. At this point in 2019, Negrey is second in 4A with a mark of 17 feet, 5.5 inches and trails only Longmont senior Tara Hitchcock in the classification.
“Her work ethic is outstanding,” Centaurus coach Robin Lynch said. “We have to hold her back and make her rest a little bit sometimes. She’s doing a bunch of events for us now but long jump is definitely her thing. As her technique continues to improve, she can go out there without having to think as much and just go for it, and that’s really fun to watch.”
Warriors teammate and fellow basketball player Owen Koonce, the BoCoPreps.com boys basketball player of the year, leads 4A with a mark of 6-6 in the high jump on the boys side of things.
Hunter Potrykus, Jr., Silver Creek: Manson and his family’s storied pedigree continue to dominate the prep pole vaulting scene in Colorado, and unsurprisingly leads the state with a mark of 17 feet in early April. Boulder senior Dylan Rodgers and Broomfield senior Samuel Godwin continue to chase him, and are currently tied for third in the statewide standings at 14-6.
In 4A, however, Silver Creek’s Hunter Potrykus appears to be the frontrunner for the boys pole vault title. He currently sits in second statewide behind Manson after clearing 14-8 at the Lyons Invitational on March 30 and is the only vaulter from last year’s 4A top four at state who didn’t graduate last spring.