Hayden High School’s Chris Zirkle has eyes on state | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden High School’s Chris Zirkle has eyes on state

Accomplished Hayden junior ready to push self at regionals

Hayden High School’s Chris Zirkle leads the pack in the 3,200-meter run on Saturday at a track meet in Kremmling. Zirkle won that race and also the 1,600-meter run. He hopes to run both this season at the state track meet.





Hayden High School's Chris Zirkle leads the pack in the 3,200-meter run on Saturday at a track meet in Kremmling. Zirkle won that race and also the 1,600-meter run. He hopes to run both this season at the state track meet.
Joel Reichenberger

— Chris Zirkle has had about as good a junior year of high school as he could have imagined.

Now, as the Hayden High School track phenom prepares for the regional meet, he's hoping to up the ante in distance events and set himself up for the right kind of finish.

Zirkle started out in the fall by finishing sixth in the Class 4A state cross-country championships, which he competed in as a member of the Moffat County High School team. Now, representing his own school, he's already pre-qualified for the Class 2A state track meet in Lakewood in the 3,200-meter run, and is hoping to punch his ticket in the 1,600-meter run Thursday and Friday at the regional track meet in Grand Junction.

Zirkle showed just what he could do Saturday, winning a pair of league championships at the Western Slope League meet in Kremmling.

His time in the 1,600 was short of the pre-qualification time he had been eyeing, but it was good enough to lock down the Tigers' school record in the event and to win it.

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He finished in 4 minutes, 46.82 seconds, nearly four seconds better than his nearest competitor.

His 3,200 was even more impressive. He dueled with Trevor Walters, of Paonia, early in the race but pulled away as the laps added up and finished with plenty of space to spare. He won with a time of 10:36.48, well ahead of Walters' 11:02.24.

"I was pretty happy with that race. It's nice to just get a win," Zirkle said.

The top three competitors in each regional event advance to state. It's a rule Zirkle is plenty familiar with, as he went into last year's regional meet hoping to earn his first trip to state.

That didn't work out. He finished back in the 1,600 and couldn't hang with Telluride's Colton Rogers on the final lap of the 3,200, finishing four seconds back and in a heartbreaking fourth place.

"I want to beat him. That was pretty disappointing," Zirkle said. "He passed me with about 200 (meters) left, and I couldn't catch him."

Now, having already hit the pre-qualification time of 10:25 in the 3,200, he said the buildup to this year's regional meet has an entirely different feel. The pressure is gone, and he knows, no matter what happens, he'll get to compete at a state meet for the first time, representing his own school.

His 3,200 time is ranked in the top three in Class 2A.

"Just knowing you're already there is pretty nice," Zirkle said. "Last year, I had a lot of pressure. It's a lot easier having that off of you.

"State is going to be pretty exciting. It'd be cool to win there, but that will be hard.”

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