Last month, Niwot track and field proved it was the best in the state when both the boys and the girls took home the Class 4A state team titles. Just a week later, the Cougars proved they were also some of the best in the nation.
At the Nike Outdoor Nationals, which ran from June 30 to July 3 and was hosted by the National Scholastic Athletes Foundation, the Cougars nabbed 10 top-10 national finishes in the relays and seven individual top-10 marks at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. Several took home the gold while others broke Hayward Field meet records.
Taylor James and Madison Shults stole the show in the relays, as both ladies secured championships as part of the 1,600-meter relay and the 3,200-meter relay. The 1,600 relay, which also featured Kimora Northrup and Stella Vieth, clocked in at an all-time Hayward Field NSAF best of 3 minutes, 42.72 seconds. The old top mark previously stood at 3:49.97 and was set in 2003. Lucca Fulkerson and Mia Prok aided in the 3,200, in which they bested the old record of 9:26.35, set in 2016, by a final time of 8:52.48.
Additionally, the girls distance medley relay — which features single-leg distances of 1,200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and a mile — took home the national crown at 11:33.51. Shults, Northrup, James and Prok crushed the old record of 11:54.19, which was last set in 2014 by an Oregon team.
“I didn’t know it happened in the DMR because I’d never run it,” Niwot sophomore Northrup said. “We just ran as fast as we could. We got interviewed afterward and the interviewer was like, ‘Do you guys know what your time means?’ We were like, ‘No, we just ran.’”
The 4×1-mile quartet of Fulkerson, Prok, Vieth and Shults smashed the Hayward Field record at 19:45.37 but only managed the silver in that race. A team out of Saratoga Springs, New York, defeated them by nearly five seconds and claimed the new mark to beat.
The boys saw similar success as their 4×1-mile relay featuring Grayden Rauba, Simon Saia, Curtis Volf and Zane Bergen defeated the second-place team by nearly nine seconds and put their name in the Hayward history books at 17:19.70 (the old record was 17:36.20 set in 1973). Saia, who just graduated, also earned a national title in the 5,000-meter run (14:30.66).
“The individual title was nice, for sure, but I think the relay title was the thing that was pretty surreal because it was just that I was up there with the three other guys,” Saia said. “Knowing that what we had done to get to that point together had paid off was absolutely incredible.”
Saia wasn’t Niwot’s only individual champion.
That distinction also belonged to Lucca Fulkerson, who destroyed her competition in the 2-mile race (10:19.95). No one came close to touching her as the second-place finisher clocked in 15 seconds later. The recent graduate noted the large jump in her performance since her last nationals competition, North Carolina’s New Balance Nationals in 2019, and alluded to what that could mean for her college career at Princeton.
“I see it in my times, but I see it in my maturity when it comes to races,” Fulkerson said. “I feel less intimidated coming to the line and I know I can run with the front pack. I don’t have to be afraid and shy off to the back or anything like that. I’m a little more confident in my running and I know after four years of training, I proved I can do better than my sophomore times.”
While all of Niwot’s 17 top-10 performances proved memorable, Zane Bergen’s silver standard finish stood out as his 4:03.90 in the mile — a new personal best — was just 0.6 seconds shy of tying for gold with Boise’s Nathan Green.
“They were out there on a mission to do well,” Niwot coach Maurice Henriques said, his REAL Training crew making up the contingent of participants. “I’m still pinching myself, because I was like, ‘Is this happening?’ Simon and Lucca, individual state titles, and then for us to get four relay titles.”
The Niwot athletes were far from the only BoCoPreps.com area athletes to make their schools proud. Broomfield’s Maelynn Higgins, Legacy’s Ryan Montera and Mia Mraz, Centaurus’ James Overberg and Jacoby Ennis, Peak to Peak’s Allison Beasley, Boulder’s Lukas Haug and Silver Creek’s Megan Kelleghan competed in a wide array of events at U of O.
Holy Family sent the next-highest number of athletes to nationals as Skylar Hawk, Conor Byrne, Pierce Kunz, Dominic Neely, Grayson Arnold, Adam Granger, Madeline Tapp, Kate Villalobos and Lizzbeth Villalobos all competed in a few relays.
Montera took seventh in the 2-mile (9:09.49). Holy Family’s girls 800 sprint medley relay stole sixth (1:50.89) as the boys 800-meter relay of Kunz, Neely, Arnold and Granger took 10th (1:31.08).
Hawk also tested her talents in the 400 hurdles. She stood in awe of the stadium that earlier this year housed the USATF Olympic Trials and the NCAA track and field championships.
“It was really cool because the team worked hard throughout the year, so to see them go to that big stadium and perform, it was really cool,” Hawk said. “I would go onto the track and see the warmup area and I would just be just like, ‘Oh my gosh. There were probably Olympian athletes that were standing here.’”