LAKEWOOD — Kourtney Rathke proved herself to be quite the master of the elements during unfortunate circumstances at the Class 3A state track and field championships at Jeffco Stadium this weekend.
The Peak to Peak sophomore, who debuted last year with second place in the pole vault, had to battle not just the bone-chilling cold left over from an unnecessarily late-spring Friday snowstorm, but she had to battle the waning hours of Saturday and the eerie silence of what was earlier a full stadium of fans.
She attempted her first bar at 9:45 p.m. and competed through the next hour and 20 minutes before making her state championship, record-breaking attempt of 12 feet, 11 inches just after 11 p.m. She cleared it with grace. The former Class 3A state meet top mark, which belonged to The Classical Academy’s Erika Willis for four years, sat at 12–9.
“It was just super exciting especially considering the snow, the delay and the time. I didn’t know it was the state record until later, so that was a fun little surprise,” Rathke said. “I think it’s honestly just like you do your best in the conditions you’re given. Lots of layers and I mean honestly, I didn’t even notice what time it was until afterwards. I was just in the zone.”
She didn’t have much time to rest before returning to the track at 9:44 a.m. on Sunday for the 100-meter hurdles only to, once again, prove just how dominant she’s become in the 3A track scene in such a short time. Rathke placed second in that race behind champion Skylar Hawk of Holy Family with a time of 16.29.
A few hours after that, she completed a long haul in the long jump competition. She secured her second state title in less than 16 hours with a leap of 18 feet, five inches with her second preliminary jump.
That was all she needed to go for the gold.
“I was happy because I was pretty consistent over 18 (feet) on all my jumps and then that one was just the one that was a little further,” she said. “I like to go out there and just do my best. The goal is always to PR and if that leads to winning, it leads to winning. Honestly, I could PR and get last and I’d still be just as happy.”
Now, she’ll head home for some much-deserved R & R after bringing home not one, but two titles for her Pumas.
“I’m so tired,” she said. “It’s been a really long week, so it was just really good to end with a bang.”
Staying on top
Little stood in the way of Silver Creek junior Megan Kelleghan repeating her 4A state pole vault title on Sunday afternoon. Not only did she hold the top seed by more than a foot at 12 feet, nine inches, but she returned after setting the new state meet record at 13–4.5 just a year earlier.
Once again, it was a no-doubter as second-place Victoria Sanders of Discovery Canyon bowed out at 11–9. Kelleghan cleared one final bar at 13 feet, a mark she’d been chasing all year after the unforgiving wind hindered her in nearly every meet prior.
“My season has been terrible. We haven’t had great weather,” she said. “The first meet that I showed up was the Broomfield Shootout. That was my opener because I was still in indoor season for our first two meets. I jumped 12–6 there, I think, and that was my season-best until conference with 12–9. It’s either just been really, really cold weather or vaulting insanely late at night.”
She couldn’t hide her elation, not just in defending her state title, but in clearing the 13-foot mark she’s been chasing all year long.
Rathke, who travels with her to national meets and is “basically my sister,” lifted her up in jubilation once the event had finally ended.
“I stayed last night for her too, so I left here at like 11:15,” Kelleghan said. “I think it was both of us being happy that we both took our places and jumped what we can jump.”
Setting the new marks to beat
Grayson Arnold had been tantalizingly close to securing state titles in the 3A 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash on Sunday but missed out on both by mere inches to Platte Valley’s Devyn Lauer-Duarte. His times of 10.92 and 21.44 seconds, the second of which broke the existing state record, earned him the silver by just 0.18 and 0.13 seconds.
That’s why, when he crossed the finish line first as the anchor of Holy Family’s 4×100-meter relay, he triumphantly threw his arms behind him.
“It feels good because sometimes, you lose confidence but when you have your team behind you on a relay, it feels really good to come out and win again,” Arnold said. “I’m super proud, and it’s fun to be the anchor for a team that’s just as good without me. They’ve run plenty of races without me and still won. They’re awesome and they want me on their team too, so it’s a bond and it’s fun when we win.”
The squad of Griffin Eastman, Pierce Kunz, Dominic Neely and Arnold not only took home the gold, but they set the new 3A state meet record in the event with a time of 42.40 seconds. The latter three completed the same feat in the 4×200 relay on Saturday night with their new state record in that event of 1:27.86.
The day, and Arnold’s high school career, couldn’t have ended on a better note.
“It was eating at me a little bit that I didn’t win, but I like competitors and (Lauer-Duarte is) fast too,” Arnold said. “It’s fun to be with my team and to win with my team.”
Giving everything she had
Skylar Hawk rounded the final corner of the 300-meter hurdles trailing at third place and decided she didn’t like that.
The Holy Family senior kicked it into high gear through the final 100 meters to catch Alamosa’s Aani Hardesty just as the two approached the final hurdle, but both girls tripped over their respective hurdles. Hawk fell over the finish line at 45.11 seconds, just 0.08 seconds before Hardesty did the same.
“Honestly, I just ran. I wasn’t thinking,” Hawk said. “The first hurdle, I realized, ‘Oh shoot, these girls are going.’ I was not in a good position and I told myself my game plan was just to run the curve. So I ran the curve, came off the curve and just gritted it out.”
“Grit” hardly describes just how dramatic the final 20 meters of that race played out. Hawk had plenty of skid marks to show for it after her title-winning performance, her second of the day.
Just a few hours earlier, Hawk achieved the same feat in the 100-meter hurdles with a dominant performance at 16.06 seconds. She beat out second-place Rathke by 0.23 seconds. That time, however, she didn’t need to exchange some skin with the track to get it done.
“It was a decision that I did in prelims to give up and I didn’t want to give up today, so I did it. It was worth it. I was really happy. I just think it was a really good way to end my high school career,” she said. “It makes me want to cry. Just seeing my dad’s face because he always tells me to leave it all on the track, so I finally did it.”
A photo finish
When Blake Barnett crossed the finish line first — just barely — in the Class 4A boys 100-meter dash on Sunday morning, he couldn’t contain his excitement.
The Erie sophomore pumped his fists and screamed at the top of his lungs as he ran across the field in exhilaration. Not only did he secure his second state title in 13 hours, his first coming as the anchor in the boys 4×200 late Saturday night, but he did so by mere inches. His 11.11-second gold-worthy time edged out the silver medalist, Grand Junction Central’s Justin Blanton, by 0.02 seconds.
“You dream of these things as a kid and when they come true, you just can’t help but just be happy,” Barnett said. “This is so awesome.”
Barnett’s entire life has revolved around games of inches, so Sunday’s performance was nothing new to him.
In just his second year of high school, Barnett hasn’t been just making waves. He’s been a full-on tsunami. In the fall, he saw his talent, speed and football IQ swell to great heights as he led his Tiger football team to Class 4A state runner-up honors. Before that, the young quarterback didn’t let his team drop a single game, sometimes willing it to win through his own mere athleticism.
The chilly weather that often defines the football season came into full focus during the final two days of the state meet that were delayed due to the snowstorm that hit the area on Friday. He used that to his advantage and didn’t let Air Academy’s Simeon Whitaker’s top seed time of 10.82 bother him too much.
“I didn’t think I was going to win it, to be honest,” Barnett said. “(Whitaker) ran 0.1 faster than me, and that’s a whole lot of ground to make up. I’m a football player, I run in the cold. I had an advantage today and I took it. I’m a 4A 100-meter state champion!”
A silver-worthy day
Julia Pattison didn’t want her final season of track to go by the wayside.
A year earlier, the Monarch senior didn’t qualify for the state meet in the 100-meter dash and finished seventh in the 400 and ninth in the 200. This year, she decided to focus more on the daily grind. In the offseason leading up to this spring and throughout it, Pattison honed her sprints through form work, leg work, weight lifting and ironing out her technical skills.
It all paid off on Sunday morning and afternoon, as she nabbed the silver in the 100 (12.22 seconds), just 0.04 seconds behind the champion. She lagged just 0.07 seconds behind the 200 champion (24.86) and 0.85 seconds behind the 400 winner (56.28) for three second place finishes.
“It’s been really amazing because last year, especially in the 100, I never was doing anything impressive,” Pattison said. “It was like 20-something in the state and never even made it to states so to be to second in the 100 was really incredible for me. To drop times in the 200 and the 400 as well — last year, I never could have dreamed of placing so well or making it so far. I still wanted to do better, but I’m really proud of how far I’ve come and what I’ve been able to accomplish in such a short period of time.”