Lakewood At last there was something entirely positive, entirely overwhelming — a genuine light for the Routt County high school track contingent, which had the most up-and-down kind of day Thursday.
The day drew to a close and the stands emptied as good news came: Soroco junior Nic Paxton, forecast by the numbers to be a nonfactor in the long jump at the Class 2A state track and field championships in Lakewood, soared from his 18th seed to eighth place.
It wasn’t a bad day for the Soroco and Hayden squads. The teams combined to bring home three medals on the first day of the meet. But it wasn’t a great day, either, and it was great the squads had been hoping for.
Two more days of action remain, but Thursday was to be the day.
It included Hayden’s previous champion, Aubree Haskins, trying to defend her state shotput title and three performances from Micaela Meyer, the Soroco Swiss Army knife.
It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what they expected.
Meyer finished fifth in the long jump, and Haskins was ninth in the shot put.
Hampered by a knee that turned sore this week, Meyer leapt to 16 feet, 6 3/4 inches and into fifth place. She said she couldn’t get up to speed quite the way she usually does, and when leaping off that aching knee, she couldn’t get the explosion she always has.
The toll was even more obvious hours later in the 100-meter hurdles, where she ran with a wince on her face and finished at the back of her heat, in 17.79 seconds and 17th overall.
“It was a bittersweet feeling, but I was happy,” Meyer said about the long jump. “I wish I could have done better, but I was happy to be on the podium.”
She also got a boost from the girls 800-meter relay team, which sprinted to eighth place and a spot in Friday’s finals.
Lauyrn Bruggink led the Rams in that race, handing to Haley Johnston, who gave it to Jaelyn Whaley, who passed to Meyer for the anchor leg.
“That was good, what we expected,” coach David Bruner said.
The day was equally a mix of emotions for Haskins, who struggled to find the formula that was so productive for her a year ago.
On Thursday, she threw 33-9 1/4 to slip into the finals but could do no better when rewarded with those three extra tosses. Michelle Hickey, of Lyons, dethroned Haskins with a put of 37-9.
“There are days where everything with your technique is going great and there are days where it’s just not falling for you,” Haskins said. “I couldn’t get it together as much as I should have.
“I won last year and placed ninth this year, so that’s kind of a bummer, but it’s nice to walk away with a medal.”
Elsewhere, several Hayden and Soroco entries missed on the podium. The Soroco girls sprint medley relay team was a long shot to advance from Thursday’s preliminary, but a dropped baton made it official.
The boys 3,200-meter relay team was happy to compete after grabbing the very last qualifying spot. Running with Paxton, AJ Anderson, Carl Rossi and Micah Gibbons, the team finished 17th in 9:15.05. The girls 3,200 relay — with Josie Rossi, Jessica Rossi, Jaelyn Whaley and Leah Walorski — was 14th, crossing in 10:49.43.
For the Tigers, Colton Jensen finished 18th in the 110 hurdles, in 18.79 seconds.
Paxton, though, was a light at the end of the day.
He entered last among qualified jumpers, but by most logic, he was far from a Cinderella story. He was 11th at state a year ago in the long jump and 15th in triple jump.
This has been a frustrating season, however. Paxton improved on his marks throughout the spring, but almost all of that improvement came at meets when the wind was blowing too hard for the scores to be counted toward state qualification.
He leapt beyond 20 feet in the long jump four times, but only squeaked into the state field, qualifying in last position with a jump of 19-2 1/4. He didn’t qualify in triple jump.
It all seemed right again Thursday. He surged into the finals in 10th place, then clawed his way up to eighth, finishing with a jump of 19-7 3/4.
“I was a little nervous, but I was really happy to medal,” he said. “I had the adrenaline pumping after I learned I made finals and went out and it went really well.”
Friday is another crowded day of action. Soroco’s Josie Rossi will compete in the 3,200-meter race along with Hayden’s Savannah Williams, both of whom have medal hopes. Anderson and Lindsay Miles will compete in the pole vault. Soroco’s 800 relay team will find out where it stacks up in that final, and the 400 and 1,600 relay teams will take the track in preliminaries.
Thursday’s performances might not have been what the local athletes had expected, but as the stadium emptied on the warm afternoon, they had laid claim to three state medals.
“That’s the best I’ve placed at state,” Meyer said. “You can’t be unhappy with that.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com