Middle Park, West Grand track teams prep for Eagle Valley meet after strong start
For Sky-Hi News
The Grand County track and field teams are moving back into gear as their seasons move on to the next phase of the schedule.
Middle Park and West Grand high schools will each hit the Eagle Valley Invitational this weekend, with athletes looking to enhance the strengths they’ve shown in early weeks and build up wherever they can.
Early season expectations
For Middle Park, this will only be the Panthers’ second meet of the spring when they expected it to be their fourth.
Initially, the program was set to attend events hosted by Fort Morgan and Weld Central in mid-March only for each of them to be canceled due to harsh weather.
The group finally got a taste of competition during March 24’s Denver South Ravens Invitational, a meet that was largely comprised of schools in and around the Mile High City at All-City Stadium.
The Panthers had their best placements in the two-mile relay events, with the girls 4×800 team collecting sixth place at a base time of 11:52.72, while the boys took eighth at 10:04.13.
The Lady Panthers also gained points in the high jump as senior Madison Moyer and junior Sylvia Brower were in a four-way tie for fifth — ultimately ranked seventh and eighth, respectively — each at a height of four feet, eight inches.
While Middle Park is now coming out of its spring break, the West Grand Mustangs spent the previous weekend at the University Bulldog Invite in Greeley.
Whereas the Kremmling teams were outsized by most schools at the meet, they picked up points in the boys 110-meter hurdles with freshman Joe Probst placing fifth at a time of 18.26 seconds. junior Ollie Bergman also placed fifth, in the pole vault, hitting 10 feet.
In the girls 4×400 relay, freshmen Taylor Martinson, and Sara Lechman, sophomore Lillian Hufford and senior Lillie Steinle cut considerable seconds, clocking in at 4:36.52.
Back to normal?
Now that Middle Park is back in regular practices, Panther head coach Christine Dubois-Miller anticipates being able to capitalize on where they were before the weeklong hiatus.
“Since track is so individual, I can give kids workouts they can do wherever they go: here’s some hill workouts, beach workouts, pool workouts just a lot of things they can do on break,” she said. “I can’t want it more than they do, all I can do is give them the tools to stay in shape when they’re gone.”
Besides missing the two meets they initially planned to attend, the Panthers were hindered in the past month by the leftover snow and cold climate. Still, since the adage of March going in like a lion and out like a lamb seems to be proving true, practices will likely be easier.
At any rate, it’s a big shift from 2021, when track was much later on the calendar.
“We were outside all last year. That totally changed things since we’re not used to having heat at the beginning of the season,” Dubois-Miller said. “That was last year’s challenge, but now we’re back to the usual. These kids really haven’t had a regular season lately. For my seniors, their last normal year was their freshman year.”
With changes among her coaching lineup, Dubois-Miller is taking on overseeing the discus and shot put competitors as well as the sprinters.
“Most kids do both track and field stuff. I do have some boys that are just throwing, but the girls I have that are brand-new to throwing this year, they also run. It kind of depends on the year and who you have,” she said.
Dubois-Miller saw some considerable shifts in the roster last year due to some athletes opting out of the atypical schedule. However, she’s had several of those same students return.
“Maybe half my relay teams came back, so we’ll have to piece it together and see what our strengths are going to be. We have some nice young talent, so we’ll see what we can do,” she said.
As the season continues, she said she is less concerned with how athletes or the overall team ranks among other schools than how they stack up against their own goals.
“There’s not a cutoff time for state, it’s just a moving target of what it takes to get there. It’s kind of tricky. Most of the invitationals we go to, it’s less about winning the team title than it is improving times,” she said.
With two decades of coaching experience, Dubois-Miller said it’s the journey that she enjoys seeing each athlete embark upon from freshman year to senior year.
“One of the things I like best about it is our focus is on kids improving and setting new personal records. It’s not just about how you finish a meet; it’s about how you are personally improving,” she said. “It’s really hard to come out of eighth-grade thinking you’re kings and queens of the mountain and then when you’re a freshman at 14 or 15, you’re going up again guys and girls that are 18 with that extra three years on you, it’s a bit of an eye-opener. Keeping that focus on personal development is important and so is still being competitive.”
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