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Track and field: Niwot’s Margaret Gillett runs with heavy heart

Day after losing mother to cancer, sophomore helps Cougars to state title in relay

Niwot's Margaret Gillett, left, runs to ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Niwot’s Margaret Gillett, left, runs to hug teammate, Kimora Northrup, after the Cougars set the 4A record in the 4 X 200 meter relay during the second day of the Colorado Track and Field State Championships at Jeffco Stadium on June 25, 2021.

LAKEWOOD — As her mother’s health deteriorated this spring, Margaret Gillett would come home after every track meet and report on how she ran.

On Friday, Gillett didn’t get the opportunity to go home and tell her mother about the state title she just won, but the Niwot sophomore knew Jefferson County Stadium was the right place to be on this day.

Laura Gillett lost her battle with pancreatic cancer on Thursday evening, and just hours later, Margaret ran in her mother’s honor.

“She told me a couple weeks before this that I will have a choice to make at some point this year, whether or not to be with her or to run and she told me to run,” Gillett said after helping Niwot to a win — and Class 4A state meet record — in the 800-meter relay. “That sort of solidified my decision. I’m here for her.”

Laura was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January of 2020 and it spread to her liver in the past few months.

“She has been suffering for a very long time,” Margaret said.

Many of those around Margaret didn’t really know, however, because just kept showing up to school and practice every day with a smile on her face.

“She’s literally the sweetest person I’ve probably ever met,” freshman teammate Mia Prok said of Margaret. “That’s how we all feel about her. She’s just such a good person.

“It shows how even better of a person she is that she’s still here to support the team, not for herself but for the team.”

Prok said Margaret was “so tough” for competing the day after losing her mother, and junior Zane Bergen echoed that sentiment.

“We’re feeling for her and when I got that text this morning, it was really sad to hear,” Bergen said.

“(This season), she’s just shown so much courage and self maturity and mental strength to come out here knowing that one of the closest people in your life might not make it to the next day. It’s something special and it really rallies the team.”

It’s the team and head coach Maurice Henriques, however, that have boosted Margaret, who will compete in the 100-meter dash and 400-meter relay on Saturday.

“My team is the best I could ask for,” she said. “The support system I have been given through Niwot is unlike any other I’ve experienced in my life. It really got me through this. I can say with assurance I would not be here and I would not have even done track this year if it weren’t for my coaches and my teammates.”

Daily reports to Laura kept Margaret going, too. Laura ran track during her high school days and never got a chance to watch her daughter run for the Cougars. But, she wanted those daily reports.

“My motivation early on was not to get to state and wasn’t to PR every meet,” she said. “It was just to be able to go home and tell my mom what I did, because she never made it to one of my high school track meets this year. I knew I can’t just go home and tell her, ‘Yeah, I got second’ or whatever. I had to tell her I won and I got first and I gave it everything I had.

“She was always asking me how I did and just totally every day like, ‘I’m proud of you for doing this.’”

No doubt, Laura would have been proud on Friday.

“Although it’s been really hard for me,” she said, “and this day has felt very long — it’s been a very hard and long day — I think I just knew it was the right decision for me.”