West Grand track sees early wins as season jump starts
For Sky-Hi News
As members of West Grand High School track and field headed into a well-earned spring break this week, they did so with their first meet under their belts and in some cases the first of hopefully many victories.
Mustang athletes took on a long list of competing schools during Friday’s Rifle Invitational, getting back into the swing of chilly early season events.
As one of the smaller teams in the mix, West Grand girls tied for 16th of 22 teams, led in their point count by sophomore pole-vaulter Lillian Hufford, the lone female competitor to clear 7 feet, 3 inches in Rifle.
Hufford finished her freshman year last season as the 1A/2A league title-holder at the Multi-League Championship, already on her way to the 7-foot, 11-inch personal best she hit to qualify for the state meet.
For the 19th-place boys, the pole vault was also the big scoring get, as West Grand junior Ollie Bergman tied for fourth with a mark of 10 feet even.
Bergman placed fifth in the league and also went on to state, his best so far 10 feet, 8 inches.
Among the other scoring successes this weekend were Hufford, senior Lillie Steinle, sophomore Celia Guzman, and freshman Sara Lechman in the girls 4×400-meter relay, ranked seventh with a time of 4:50.14. Freshman Joe Probst earned seventh in the 110 hurdles at 20.53 seconds and ninth in the 300 hurdles at 49.34 seconds.
The Rifle meet was an opportunity to get back in gear for some, as well as serving as the introductory event for the abundance of freshmen on the Mustang roster, overseen by longtime coaches Cheryl and Chris Brown.
“Our numbers aren’t bad right now; we’ve got about 25 boys and 15 girls. We’re down to 115 kids at the high school, so our numbers aren’t bad for that,” Chris said.
Deeply involved in West Grand athletics for the better part of 40 years, The Browns are ready to get back to the typical track season after last year’s shift that saw the schedule moved into the summer.
Now that they’re starting things up in March again, getting used to the outdoor conditions is a challenge with which they’re familiar as they embrace the return to normalcy.
“We can pole vault and high jump and do indoor shot as far as indoor stuff. We don’t want to run inside too much, but there’s a lot of circuit training we can do,” Chris said.
Though the 2021 season was different, it wasn’t without triumphs, including league championships in the boys’ 4×200 relay and girls’ pole vault. West Grand went on to see state qualification in seven events, making it to the podium for the boys 110 hurdles, 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400, and girls 3,200-meter run.
Though the team said farewell to some key senior athletes in the Class of 2021, they will retain some multi-talented returners, such as Huffert and Bergman, junior Wyatt Howell and seniors Levi Edson, Audree Miller and Maddy Probst.
While the lack of a boys basketball team this season will have an effect, Chris Brown said the addition of a standout athlete coming from another sport will help.
Junior Brayden James set the boys cross-country program’s fastest result ever this fall, with a 5K time of 18:18, and will bring his running prowess to a new setting.
“He’s one of those kids who can do sprints and middle-distance,” Chris said. “He’s never gone out for track, so we don’t really know exactly what all he’ll be doing.”
Chris expects to see competition from the usual sources on the Western Slope, including Meeker, Soroco and Cedaredge, though he’s less concerned with the titles and more with tracksters’ personal growth.
“It’s about getting better. Track is really one of those sports you can chart your progress with a watch or a tape measure,” he said.
With this being his 45th year coaching high school sports — long since achieving legendary status in the high school football world — Chris said he’s got no plans to stop anytime soon.
“I’ve been doing it a long time and I still like it,” he said.
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