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Niwot girls track takes 3rd at state

 

Photo by Ed Navarro Junior Alexis Carroll (pictured middle) took second place in the 100 meter hurdles over the weekend at the track and field state championship.

Winning one state championship is a tall order. Winning three in a row is the start of a dynasty. But what solidifies a dynasty is not the consistency of winning it all, but the consistency of finishing well even if it isn’t your best season.

That is what the Niwot High School girls track team was able to accomplish this past weekend at the Colorado High School 4A State Track & Field Championships, with a third-place finish following three consecutive state titles.

Though the Cougars did not successfully defend their state title, they were in the mix the entire three-day event, and Head Coach Maurice Henriques said he could not have been happier with how his team competed during the weekend.

“We went through a lot of adversity this season, we weren’t even one hundred percent coming into state,” Henriques said on Saturday during the meet. “It’s hard to stay on top every year, but our kids responded great and worked hard. You know, you can take for granted when you’ve won so much, but winning a state championship is big. We won three in a row and were in the conversation for a fourth.”

Niwot had a very strong shot at finishing second. With the Cougars not qualifying anyone in six of the events, they needed to do well in all of the remaining events they were competing in.

The bread and butter of this Niwot team has been the relay teams all year, so they looked to those events to be the anchor for their points. What they were not expecting was to not score any points in the 4x200 meter relay because of a disqualification.

“We spend a lot of time on attention to detail in the relays and we just didn’t line up right,” Henriques said of the disqualification. “It was a lack of focus on our part, and that’s on me as the coach. We are going to learn from it. It was disappointing because if we are going to make a mistake, it shouldn’t be in the relays. In 16 years as a head coach this was the first time I have ever had a relay team disqualified in a race.”

Despite not capitalizing on the point scoring in the 4x200 relay, the Cougars, with 58 points, still finished just 6.5 points behind second-place Air Academy. The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, which finished fifth a year ago in Class 4A after winning Class 3A two years ago, took first with 84.5 points. The Classical Adademy is the largest K-12 charter school in the state.

The best performances on the weekend for the Cougars came from a diverse group. While no one actually won an event outright, Niwot had three second place finishers for the meet. Sophomore Mackenzie Fidelak finished second in the 300 meter hurdles, with senior Kela Fetters close behind finishing in fourth place. Junior Alexis Carroll finished second in the 100 meter hurdles, and the 4x400 meter relay and 4x800 meter relay teams both took home second in the finals.

Fidelak also finished fourth in the 400 meter dash and was a part of the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams, all despite having an injury two weeks ago that almost kept her out of the competition.

“Fidelak hasn’t been one hundred percent, but her will and determination to help her teammates has been incredible,” Henriques said of his standout sophomore. “Two weeks ago she was in a stabilization boot yet she still ran eight races this week in total.”

Probably the most encouraging thing from the competition this weekend was how many underclassmen competed and competed well. Fidelak and Carroll both have at least one more year to work for the Cougars, and the 4x800 team that took second featured three underclassmen, juniors Claire Gillet and Jenna McCaffrey and freshman Maggie Smith, along with senior Emily Cranny.

There is also other up and coming young talent that finished just outside of making the finals. Sophomore Mary Gillet barely missed the cut in the 400 meter dash, finishing in tenth place in the prelims, and fellow sophomore Sophie Grant finished 13th in the prelims of the 100 meter hurdles.

“We have a lot of young kids who ran their first time in state this year and that’s huge going forward,” Henriques said of this team’s future.

In the field events, Niwot had a harder time finding points than they did on the track. Without qualifying for the discus, shotput, or pole vault, the Cougars were relying on scoring big in the high jump, triple jump and long jump.

In both the triple jump and long jump, Niwot had two athletes competing to get as many points as possible for their team. Carroll and senior Alyssa Jenkins both qualified for both events. Carroll finished in seventh in the triple jump, while Jenkins took home sixth in the long jump. The sixth place finish for Jenkins was great considering she had come into the meet projected to finish 17th.

“Jenkins was great, she came in at the back of the pack and finished sixth,” Henriques said.

While they had good finishes in those events, they did not gain any points in the high jump, though freshman Emma Falk did well to finish tied for tenth place in her first state championship.

Field events are something that Henriques said his team needs to focus on heading into next year, but they are in a great position to continue the tradition that has become Niwot girls track and field.

“We need to really work on our throws heading into next season so we aren’t just leaving points on the field, but I have nothing to complain about with this season,” Henriques said. “I turned 43 today and I wouldn’t want anything else than to be here at a Niwot track meet watching this team compete.”

 

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