Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
LAKEWOOD — When Longmont’s Connor McCormick first entered the second day of the Class 4A track and field championships at Jeffco Stadium on Saturday, he sat at eighth overall in the 3,200-meter run.
That didn’t seem to bother one of 4A’s premier distance runners.
Once the pack began their eighth and final lap, McCormick decided to make a move on Niwot’s Zane Bergen, who had been leading for much of the race. He took the lead with about 100 meters to go and didn’t look back.
When he crossed the finish line at 9 minutes, 3.83 seconds, he not only beat out his former season-best mark by 21 seconds, but he claimed the 4A state meet record as well.
“I definitely was not going to try to go out in one of those top spots, stayed back for as long as I could while thinking I could still make a move at the end,” McCormick said. “I felt good in that last lap so I made the move.”
McCormick credited the colossal drop in time to his training regimen leading up to the state meet, which involved increased mileage and higher-intensity workouts than in years past. That performance cost him later in the day, however, as he missed out on his second state title of the day in the 800.
Bergen, not to be outdone again, ran away with the gold in that event. McCormick had been trailing behind Mountain View’s Jackson Shorten until the final 100 meters when, once again, he made his final push and beat Shorten out at the finish line with a time of 1:54.45, just 2.38 seconds behind Bergen’s 1:52.07.
Bergen and McCormick had been battling in that race, as well as the 1,600-meter run set to take place on Sunday morning, all season long.
“Zane’s an incredible runner,” McCormick said. “It was obviously an amazing feeling to win the competition earlier today, but the legs weren’t feeling as good as they should have for this race right now, so I’m not mad about second. Longmont scored three people in the top eight. I’m super happy about that more than I’m upset about getting second.”
Andreas O’Malley clocked in at fourth at 1:55.19 and Dominic Warner placed eighth with a time of 1:57.15 in the race.
One last shot
Much like McCormick, Longmont senior Caleb Johnson knew he didn’t have anything left to lose in the final state meet of his high school career. He wanted to enter next week’s graduation with a bit more hardware than he came into the weekend with.
He entered the state meet with the No. 4 seed in the long jump at 22 feet, 6 inches, and pushed through the unfavorable conditions brought on by a late spring snowstorm to pull out the gold, even if he was a bit short of his season PR.
His first attempt of 22-0.5 held up as the day’s best.
“Today was just the type of day, no one was jumping their best, so I think I could have potentially beat it with some of my scratches, but I was just playing it by each jump and it got the lead,” Johnson said. “(The pits) were a little wetter than normal. The sand was sticking to my legs and the clothes, but I think that made it fun. It added a little extra to it. Some people just don’t like the snow and don’t like some of the conditions as much but I tried to not let that bother me at all when I came in to today.”
He let the “underdog” mentality carry him to victory, and ensured his road to gold from day one of the spring season by tweaking his technique and putting in extra work in the weight room. His transition from basketball season straight into track didn’t hurt, either.
“I needed to make sure I drove my knee good and just held that, and then I worked on my finish a lot this year, just getting my heels out in front and maximizing the distance every time,” he explained. “I think if I hadn’t have worked on that, I wouldn’t have won today. It’s just good to see that what I did helped me and I think it got me the win today. Just the little things.”
By the end of the second day, both McCormick’s and Johnson’s performances helped propel the Trojan boys to the top of the team rankings with 54 points.