Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Niwot dominates at Boulder County Championships

 

April 24, 2019

Chase McBride

The Niwot boys track team won the team title at the 2019 BoCo Championships, held April 20 at Longmont High.

The Niwot track and field team turned in an historic performance at the Boulder County Championships (BoCo) meet last weekend, and now head coach Maurice Henriques can cross a few more items off of the Cougars’ 2019 to-do list.

“Our goal was to win this meet on both sides,” Henriques said at the 43rd annual event, held on April 20 at Everly-Montgomery Field. “And, it’s the first time in school’s history that’s happened and the first time for the boys to have a win at the Boulder County Championships, and that’s a big deal. It’s like when Colorado used to play Nebraska—it’s our red-letter meet right here.”

With 98.5 points on the day, the Niwot boys picked up their first ever BoCo team title, while the Niwot girls claimed their 10th straight, setting a new meet record. It was also an historic day for Niwot’s Taylor James and Nolan Johan, who were crowned the meet’s Most Valuable Athletes for their high scoring individual performances. 

The Niwot boys took first place in five of the meet’s 18 events, and had a top-five finisher in another nine, including their season-high fifth place finish in the discus by Brandon Hult (116-feet, 2 inches). Senior Johan was responsible for two of the Cougar wins, in the 110m and 300m hurdles, while junior Jack Kenkel took first in the 800M.

“I’m super ecstatic about the boys—it’s all coming together,” Henriques said.

The Cougars also took first in two of the four relays, including the 4x800, where a team of Ben Bi, Jack Kenkel, Cruz Culpepper, and Ares Reading posted the state’s first sub-8:00 mark of the season with a time of 7 minutes, 55.58 seconds, more than 16 seconds faster than the second-place team. Niwot also took first in the 4x400 relay with a season-best time of 3:24.73

Coach Kelly Christensen was especially relieved to see those winning times from his distance crew, which has been battling illness and the effects of a weather-shortened training schedule. He said he was especially encouraged by the performance of Kenkel, who broke the 2:00 mark in the 800M twice at BoCo.

“Today he ran a 1:56 high in the 4x800 and he’ll challenge Cruz for the win in the 800M at state, hopefully. That’s what we’re telling him. And we really do believe that. It’s an experience and confidence thing. He has the same footspeed as Cruz and they train together.”

Henriques is more guarded about the Niwot girls team, saying they should be “a little bit sharper,” but he chalked up their slowestart to the bad weather and schedule disruptions. He has no doubts the perennial Class 4A title contenders will be more than ready for the postseason.

“The girls are pretty solid and they’re consistent, so I think we’re right where we need to be,” he said. “We’re greedy. We have high standards. So we’re just looking to pull kids in, get more kids to the state meet so we have more chances and opportunities to score more points.”

One of those who will undoubtedly score points for the Cougars is James, who won three individual events on the day and broke a meet record in the 400M, but was edged out in that race by Mead senior Abby Glynn, last year’s state runner-up in the event.

“That was so much fun,” James said. She finished in 54.93, beating Mary Gillett’s meet record of 55.46 set last year, but not quite as fast as Glynn (54.79). “I’ve never raced against Abby Glynn before, so I was really excited to test myself against her. She’s one of the best known athletes in the state, and I was really happy that I was able to finish so close to her.”

James also took the individual title in the 1600M, with a season-best time of 4:59.35; the 200M (25.23), and the high jump (5-03).

James’ success at BoCo mirrors her 2019 season, in that she has been an effective weapon at just about any distance.

“I have no idea what my coaches are going to throw me in next, and that’s how I love it,” she said. “It keeps me on my toes, and wherever I can get points, I will. I’m excited to see where I can go with it.”

Elsewhere for the girls, junior Elise Gillett had top-five finishes in the 100 and 300 hurdles and the 100M, while Julea Trank was fourth in the 100M and fifth in the 200M, and also a member of Niwot’s winning relays in the 4x100 and 4x200. Maggie Smith was fourth in in the 800 (2:23.51) and Layla Roebke (5:12.43) and Lucca Fulkerson (5:14.73) took third and fourth respectively in the 1600, right behind James.

Like Henriques, Christensen was encouraged by the results at BoCo, and said that after a cold, wet spring, the Cougars hitting their stride in the last leg of the regular season.

“I think we’re just getting started, so it’s fun. I know we’ve been going a long time, but this is where we get to lay back on the training and get a little more specified and run well. We’re very well prepared for a very good last 4 to 5 weeks.”

Up next for the Cougars is the Stutler Invitational, an annual Friday-night event at Cherry Creek High School that Henriques termed “the PR” meet, “because it’s always the meet where we really know where we’re at as coaches.” The next weekend they are back in Longmont for the Northern League Championships on May 3-4.

 

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