Track and field: Local athletes showcase immense talent at BoCo Invite

Apr. 13—LAFAYETTE — Over the past couple of years, a friendly rivalry has been brewing between two of Colorado's best female jumpers. It seems that's becoming an annual tradition in Boulder County.

On Saturday morning at the Boulder County track championships, held at Spangenberg Field, Longmont's Ella Pears — the reigning Class 4A state champion in the triple jump — won out again, this time peaking at 37 feet, 3 inches. Peak to Peak's Kourtney Rathke, who put on a jaw-dropping performance in the pole vault, trailed just behind at 36-1.75 before winning the long jump at 18-8.

Pears isn't done winning yet, even if it's taking her a bit to revert back to the 38-0.5 that she threw down at Jeffco Stadium last year.

"I've been slowly making my way back to the 37(-foot) ranges, but now I'm kind of there, so it's a good feeling getting back," Pears said. "My jumps went pretty well today. I'm kind of getting back to where I want to be distance-wise. I'm just building a base so we can go on and win conference and then state again."

Pears took the unusual step of maintaining her training over the offseason and has been battling tired legs during the early weeks of spring. The new techniques she's been employing seem to be paying dividends already.

"I'm really working on my first phase, getting height but not too much height and kind of maximizing not on all of them, so I can save it all for my last one," she said.

Jetting out front

In the moments following her victory in the 1,600-meter run, Boulder's Kiki Vaughn praised the ability to run with a pack of fierce competitors, something she hadn't really experienced this season prior to Saturday.

In the final 200 meters, however, she sped toward the finish line alone. Vaughn, who clocked in with a time of 4 minutes, 56.82 seconds, beat out second-place Mia Prok, from Niwot, by slightly more than 10 seconds.

The first half of the race, she wasn't even trying all that hard. The two-time Daily Camera girls cross country runner of the year still almost ended up with a personal record.

"I think I passed her at (about) 800 to go," Vaughn said of the talented Prok. "That was kind of my race plan, because I've raced with her a couple of times, and I've led a lot of the races I've had in Colorado this season. My plan was to let someone lead me through 800, and if I felt good, to take the race. I was feeling good at 800 to go. My goal always is to push the third lap, because I always have a kick even when I don't think I do."

That performance, if it holds through all of the other big meets on Saturday, would place her at fourth in Colorado. Niwot's Addison Ritzenhein, the national Gatorade Player of the Year in cross country, holds the No. 1 spot at 4:44.30.

Later in the day, Vaughn easily won the 800 with a 2:16.81.

Too easy

By this point in her high school career, it's almost a guaranteed win every time Ritzenhein enters a competition. Her performance in the 3,200 on Saturday proved no different.

Through eight dominating laps around the track, Ritzenhein blew away the rest of the field, eventually ending with a 10:37.14 mark. Her teammate, Olivia Alessandrini, crossed the finish line second at 11:27.23.

"It was just a hard tempo. That's what I was going for," Ritzenhein said. "I kind of treat it as a workout and since it was really hot out too, I didn't want to push it too hard. I was aiming for around 10:40 just to qualify to state. The bare minimum."

Her PR, to date, in the indoor 2-mile bottomed out at 9:52 earlier this year. Her first crack at it in an outdoor, high school setting punched her ticket to state with ease. Last weekend, she sped to fifth at the daunting, 500-team Arcadia Invitational in California, setting a PR in her 1,600 at 4:40.78.

"At Arcadia, I decided to shake things up a bit and try the mile instead of the 2-mile, which is very unusual, I'd say, for me," she said. "It was really fun to go race with (Ventura, California's) Sadie Engelhardt and just run with all the best milers in the country."

Engelhardt won the mile at Arcadia with a 4:32.48.

A hop, skip and a jump

A massive sacrifice can hurt in the moment, but when it pays off, elation is right around the corner. Broomfield senior Diego Estebanes let it all out following his win in the 300 hurdles, pumping his fists and screaming as soon as he crossed the finish line.

His time of 38.76 seconds was just the breakthrough he had been waiting for. He credited his success to Josh Dunn, who graduated from the Eagles' program two years back.

"It was way more (than just a win), at least for me," Estebanes said. "There's no better training than training against someone that really pushes you to your max. At that time, I was running like 42 and it never really occurred that 38 was in the picture. It's just such a big milestone."

This year, Estebanes chose to sit out during basketball season, a decision that he said hurt at the time. Following his race on Saturday, he was all smiles, even as he fought to catch his breath. He beat out his previous PR by 0.26 seconds.

"It's such a pleasure to race this meet, just because it gives me an opportunity to compete with all those boys that are on the track," Estebanes said. "I won't say I like them because I am competitive, but off the track, I love those guys to death. They're great people."

One such worthy competitor, Silver Creek's Haven Dewart, trailed just behind him at 39.68. That mark, if it holds through other meets around the area over the weekend, would put him at No. 1 in all of Class 4A. He led the classification in the 400 just days earlier, before Standley Lake's Finnegan Beck eclipsed him by a mere 0.28 seconds.

Before the race at BoCo, he was more of a distance guy.

"It was my first 300 of the season," Dewart said. "I've been really training for the 400 and sprinting, so I think I went out a little conservatively and ran the entire race like I would a 400. During the backstretch, I definitely had a lot of energy left. I just haven't been working on my form enough."