Lakewood Hayden High School senior Jake Walker crossed the finish line with a lunge, his arms stretched forward and his face twisted into a knot in what was definitely his final high school race and might be his last competitive race.
He’s off to Colorado State University to focus on physics, he said. Graduate school may await after that. Maybe — only maybe — he’ll consider walking on to the Rams track and field team during his stay.
But in that moment, he wasn’t thinking about the future. As he crossed the finish line of the Class 2A 100-meter dash, he was thinking about glory.
“I thought I won,” he said later.
He was wrong. By a minuscule 0.04 seconds, Walker finished second, ending his high school career and what has been a blessed life at the state track meet.
Hayden had three good chances at state championships today, the final day of the state track meet in Lakewood, and it fell short three times. Walker was second. Senior Rene Valdez was third in the high jump, and junior Chris Zirkle was ninth in the 1,600.
But there was little brooding today, and as Colorado track’s biggest show came to a close, the Tigers were happy.
“With the season I’ve had, missing six weeks with an injury, it’s better than I could have expected,” Walker said. “You always want to win, but it was close.”
He said it brought about a much better feeling than a crushing fifth-place finish Friday night in the 200. That race still sat with him today, but the 100 helped soothe the wound.
He finished in 11.65 seconds, just behind Merino’s Bryar DeSanti at 11.61. DeSanti also won the 200.
“My start wasn’t very good. I lost a lot of explosiveness with the knee injury,” Walker said. “I would have been more mad, but (DeSanti) is such a cool kid.”
Wind fueled Valdez’s slide in the high jump. He entered as the only jumper to have cleared 6-foot-6, and if he had accomplished that again, he’d have won. A fierce wind affected every moment of the competition, however. Meet workers had to hold the bar on for every jump. They let go as an athlete flew over, but the wind usually quickly blew it off whether it had been bumped or not, and the workers had to judge what had been the decisive factor.
“The wind wasn’t helping very much,” said Valdez, who had to run into the gusts at the end of his jump while some of the competitors had it at their back.
Still, he acknowledged that it was a factor for everyone.
He was one of two jumpers to exit after clearing 6-4 and finished third based on having fewer misses earlier in the competition. Ethan Browning of Cripple Creek won the competition after clearing 6-5.
“It just wasn’t a very good day,” Valdez said about his first state track experience. “I’m not the happiest man. I could have done better, but other than that, it was pretty good.”
Zirkle said he was still smarting from a third-place finish in the 3,200 Friday. He had hoped for better, and things just weren’t right in today’s 1,600.
He couldn’t cling to an eight-runner lead pack that developed early in the race and spent most of the time leading a secondary group. He broke away from those runners on his final lap, but he couldn’t track down anyone in front of him.
“I wasn’t into it,” Zirkle said. “It was hard. The (weekend) was all right. I wish I had done better, but it was still fun.
“I’ll work harder.”
Rams grab one final medal
The success of Soroco’s boys track team was evident again today as the final standings were released.
Even without any competitors on the meet’s final day, the boys team finished seventh. Hayden’s boys were ninth.
Still, it was Soroco’s girls who stole the show today, capitalizing on a gutsy 1,600 relay preliminary performance Thursday night to earn a medal, placing eighth in the 1,600 relay finals.
Sophomore Lauryn Bruggink started the race and was joined by junior Ceanna Rossi and freshmen Josie Rossi and Carmen Matthews.
“We were ranked seventh, so that was a little disappointing, but we all ran hard,” Ceanna Rossi said. “We had hoped to get the school record. We didn’t get it, but we ran tough.
“It’s really exciting to run in front of all these people. It makes the whole season worth it.”
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail email@example.com