Track and field: Niwot’s Gillett, Longmont’s Hitchcock set sights high for state

Duo has battled in hurdles, field events all season

Brad Cochi/
Niwot’s Elise Gillett, right, and Longmont’s Tara Hitchcock battle as they head toward the finish of the 100-meter hurdles race at the Tri-League Championships Friday at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.

LONGMONT — Following the sound of the starting gun going off, Elise Gillett and Tara Hitchcock pulled out to the early lead in the final heat of the 100 hurdles finals in the Northern League race at Everly-Montgomery Field.

It’s no surprise the two were fighting each other for the top spot in their race yet again Friday.

“I love running against Elise Gillett from Niwot,” Hitchcock said. “She really pushes me and we push each other. Our rivalry is really healthy and I think it is good. It helps us run better. Running next to her pushes me to do better.”

The edge Friday went to Gillett. Midway through the race, she broke free of their tie to take a slim lead. A fast finish made the difference for her to finish in 15.23 seconds while Hitchcock crossed the finish line in 15.40.

“It’s really a blessing to be able to race against some of my greatest competition,” Gillett said. “It helps me PR and pushes me to do better. More importantly, it helps prepare me for a state race where I’m going to be up against some competition that is really good. I think it’s really a blessing and something I don’t take for granted.”

The two are connected by their competition in the hurdles, but there is more outside the lines that are similar in driving them to become some of the best hurdlers in the area.

Gillett has won plenty of meets in the 100 hurdles and is doing so after her performance in the state meet last May. While the Cougars did get three of their four runners in the finals, Gillett was the odd one out and missed the finals.

Having had a strong season in the event only to have things end on a slightly sour note, Gillett plans to change the tune this season.

“You can’t take any opportunities for granted,” Gillett said. “Every time you race and get on the track, it can be another opportunity to PR and get ready for a state level race. A big thing that I learned is that you should never miss an opportunity to become consistent.”

Hitchcock was another runner to just miss out on reaching the finals in both the 100 and 300 hurdles last year.

Things are on the right track for both to return to state and leave with a spot on the podium. As a result, the goals have increased substantially for the two.

“My biggest goal this year to break the Longmont High School 300 hurdles record, which is 43.87 seconds,” Hitchcock said. “I really feel that’s been my biggest motivation. In any race, the goal has been to get faster. I really want to get top three at state.”

Getting in the top three in the hurdles will come with facing the challenges of athletes like Gillett in the 100, Abbey Glynn of Mead in the 300 and others from across the state that will be in the discussion for the fastest time.

She may be looking up at the moment for that top spot, but the same cannot be said for her in the long jump, arguably her strongest event. Entering the week, Hitchcock entered as the top long jumper in Class 4A with a mark of 18-feet-1.5 inches. It is another event she missed out on the podium last year at state.

“I’m really excited about it,” Hitchcock said. “The nerves haven’t hit me yet, but I’m sure they will hit closer to state. Everyone has their good days and their bad days when it comes to jumps. For state, it’s really about who’s having their good days. I’m hoping to have one of my good days.”

The goals are also sky-high for Gillett when it comes to both her personal goal and the goals the Niwot girls track team have set for themselves.

“A goal I’ve had since last year is winning the state title in 100 hurdles,” Gillett said. “It will be difficult, but I’ve set my mind to it and I’m hoping to achieve that. And obviously, our girls are shooting to win (state) as a team.”

They are linked together by greatness – and by competition – in the sport. Time will tell how many state titles each girl will bring home. When it comes to winning the 100 hurdles title, they could be going toe-to-toe for the same goal.

Advantage on Friday to Gillett.

Top finishes for girls on first day of league meet

Everly-Montgomery Field is playing host to the league meet for the Tri-Valley League, Mile High League and Northern League this weekend in Longmont. Action began Friday and will continue through Saturday.

Niwot took command in the standings in the Northern League with a number of other first-place finishes. Taylor James edged by Laurene Powell of Mountain View to win the high jump and Maria Diasabeygunawardena was the top finisher in the long jump. Julea Trank grabbed an individual win in the 100 meter dash and the 800 relay team won to help the Cougars surpass 100 points on the first day of competition.

The race in the Mile High League is set to come down to Highland and Lyons after the first day. Lyons got the edge in the 3,200 relay and earned the top two spots in the pole vault with Katie Fankhouser and Quin Gregg. A number of others finished second in other events helps to keep pace with Highland, the leader after day one.

In the Tri-Valley League race, Holy Family jumped out to the front of the pack and will find themselves trailing Roosevelt entering Saturday. The 3,200 relay team picked up the first win for the Tigers, but Roosevelt responded with a strong finish on the track to take the lead.