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Girls track and field: Niwot’s James named athlete of the year

The sophomore took gold three times at the 4A state meet in May

NIWOT, CO - JUNE 11:Niwot High School's Taylor James poses for a portrait on June 11, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
NIWOT, CO – JUNE 11:Niwot High School’s Taylor James poses for a portrait on June 11, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

NIWOT – It’s beginning to feel as though each and every year, the Niwot girls track and field team has some type of uber-versatile athlete who shows up at the state championships and wins three or more events.

This year, Niwot’s most recent star was sophomore Taylor James. She’s also the most recent Niwot athlete to be named girls track and field athlete of the year.

At the 2019 Colorado track and field state championships, James won the Class 4A 200-, 400- and 800-meter titles, and ran a leg on the Cougars’ 400-meter relay team that placed first. In doing so, she paced the Niwot girls to their fourth 4A team championship in the past six seasons.

Not too shabby.

“It’s really been a roller coaster but I’ve enjoyed it so much,” James said. “Getting the team title on both sides is something we’ve been working towards the entire season. Doing that for the first time in school history was amazing. Be able to do that together was just amazing.”

It was indeed an outstanding year, even by the Niwot track program’s standards. Not only did the girls team won the team title by an incredible 65 points, but the Niwot boys also won their first-ever team championship.

For James, she simply dominated the middle distances. She won the 200 in 24.76 seconds, the 400 in 54.35 seconds and her time of 2:08.29 in the 800 was a 4A state meet record. Following her dominant performance at the Colorado state meet on June 1, James won the 800 at the Music City Distance Carnival at Vanderbilt University in 2:05.83 and that is currently the fourth fastest time by a high school runner in the country.

“All of the state races and my race at the Music City were amazing,” James said. “But winning the 200 at state this year was maybe the biggest thing for me because last year, I could not come out of the blocks at all. My 800s have improved a lot, which is wonderful, and the coaches have gotten me so far and I just hope I can keep improving.”

Niwot’s Taylor James reacts to yet another state meet win this past May.

James even had to adjust to an unexpected event switch at state this year. Originally slated to compete in the high jump, in which she was seeded third, James found out on Friday that she was instead running in the 1,600-meter relay preliminaries for the sake of the team.

“Yeah, she’s an unbelievable athlete but she’s also just an unbelievable person,” Niwot head coach Maurice Henriques said. “High jump is something she enjoys but Maggie Smith, who is a senior and has been a big part of our program, was hurt. So I told Taylor I was going to scratch her from her individual event and put her on the relay so we could win it. She had no problem with that because she’s a great teammate.

“She’s the U.S. No. 4 in the 800 now and that’s pretty crazy for someone who is just finishing up her sophomore year. Hopefully she just continues to improve and we’re just lucky to have her at Niwot.”

Through the first two seasons of her prep career, James has a total of seven medals including five first-place finishes. She will run the 800 at the Brooks PR Invitational at the University of Washington this weekend.

Niwot’s Mary Gillett was the athlete of the year in 2017 and 2018.

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