Lining up for his heat of the 800-meter run at the Boulder County Championships on June 5, Frederick senior Ryan Chacon went through his pre-race stretches and bent down to touch his toes.
“My body just started shaking with nerves,” he said.
Off the track, his mother was a nervous wreck.
After tearing the meniscus in his knee during a mid-February basketball practice, Chacon wasn’t supposed to have a track season. However, he has excelled in his rehabilitation, fought through the nerves and came back just in time to qualify for state in five different events.
At the state track and field championships Thursday through Saturday at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood, Chacon will run in the Class 4A boys 100, 200 and 400, as well as the 1,600-meter relay. He also helped the Warriors qualify in the 800-meter relay.
“I’ve been pretty amazed that he just walked out and did what he did,” Frederick head coach Sheli Mares said.
Chacon, who is planning to compete at Butler (Kan.) Community College next year, won two medals at the 2019 state meet, but, like everyone else, did not get a 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When he came down from grabbing a rebound during basketball practice and felt a pop in his leg, he nearly lost his senior season, too.
Doctors told Chacon that it would probably be July before he would be cleared. As he went through recovery, however, he progressed quickly with no swelling or setbacks. Heading into the BoCo meet on June 5, Chacon was cleared to run only the 800 but had not done much training.
“I did maybe five 150s during practice, and sitting on the couch eating food and that was about it,” he said.
When Chacon asked Mares to run at the BoCo meet, she was surprised.
“You knew there was a glimmer of hope, but you knew to plan that it might not happen,” she said.
It wasn’t until last week that Chacon was fully cleared by his doctor.
Chacon has competed in only nine races, but in six of them, he’s posted state-qualifying times, including the only 100 and 200 sprints he has run. Both of his 400s have been good enough to rank third in Class 4A. He has a seed time of 49.59 seconds in the 400.
“I was honestly pretty shocked,” he said of his performances this spring.
At the St. Vrain Invitational on Friday, he helped two Warriors relays (800 and 1600) secure spots at state, with the 1,600 relay seeded third. He also nearly helped the Warriors get to state in the 3,200 relay, as they rank 19th in Class 4A. The top 18 qualify and the Warriors were 18th until Saturday.
Practicing with his teammates this week has made the effort worth it for Chacon, because that was part of his motivation to return.
“Seeing all of my teammates just running so well, and just doing good things, I knew the relays were right on the edge,” he said. “I was like, ‘If I just come back, I’ll give them an extra boost just to get to state and just help them out and get where they want to be.’
“That was kind of my main goal coming back … just so they can experience (state) also. We all missed out on a season last season, so let’s get back to state. I know they’re good enough to get there.”
Mares, in fact, said the Warriors’ relays teams were working hard to get there without Chacon. She believes the 1,600-meter relay team would have done it, and the 800-meter relay team would have been close, as well.
Chacon’s return has been a boost to the Warriors, however, and Mares is excited to see her star senior ending his career with a trip to state.
“It’s exciting for him to be able to get back into action, back into what he loves, especially after a lost season last year,” she said. “Initially it looked like he may have only had a two-year high school career, which is really short.
“It’s exciting for him to be able to, having had sat out so much, be able to get in and compete at that level.”
Chacon’s success over the past few weeks – and avoiding setbacks – has helped ease some of the nerves for himself and his mother, he said. And, while it may have only been about a three-week season for Chacon, he’ll take it.
“It’s extremely exciting,” he said. “When I figured out that there was actually a chance and I’m getting cleared, I had a smile ear to ear on my face. It was just the best thing probably I’ve ever heard and I was just ready to get back on the track with all my friends and just compete.”