The numbers are small. The members are strong, and their will is unshakable. The Pagosa Pirate track team, both boys and girls, worked hard throughout the 2012 season and their times, their placings, their records after the Intermountain League meet held in Bayfield last Saturday show it.
The boys, after coming in second to Bayfield previously this season, ramped up their game, focused on doing their best, and came out with a first-place win. The girls, with a team of 12, plagued by injuries and illness, placed third.
This year, it was also two Pirates who took home the Athlete of the Year Award in the league. Senior Carlos Brinkmann was voted Male Athlete of the Year, and junior Toni Stoll was voted Female Athlete of the Year. Both athletes had a year of personal records and first-place finishes with second place far, far behind.
In addition to the accolades and the wins, Pirates also qualified for the state meet. The boys 4x200, 4x400 and 4x800 relays qualified for state. Brinkmann qualified in the 1,600 meters.
“I think the boys can crack the top five in the 4x800,” Coach Scott White said, adding that the boys know they are the big time underdogs, currently ranked 18 in the state 3A classification. “They’ve never run to their full potential,” White said, and if they do, he thinks they have a real shot at stepping up on that podium.
All in all, six girls qualified for state, which is half of the team. Senior Katie Armbrecht will compete in shot put and discus. Stoll will compete in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, triple jump (currently ranked second in 3A), and long jump. Junior Gabby Pajak will compete in the 100 hurdles, triple jump and long jump.
Sophomore Taylor Strohecker will compete in high jump; currently she is ranked second in Class 3A.
“This has been one of the most satisfying years coaching,” said White. It may have been a small team but, according to White, the members’ commitment to the team, their willingness to practice and be flexible, their ability to come together, made them a team to be reckoned with.
The boys worked together, as a family, and came through, sweeping all the relays except the 4x100, in which they placed second. However, White added, the boys were disqualified from the 4x400 due to throwing the baton on the track in excitement of having won the big race.
Brinkmann took first place in the 1,600 meter run with a time of 4 minutes, 47.44 seconds, and was first in the 3200 m with a 10.35.89.
Sophomore Jeremy Hortsman placed second in the 100 meters with a 11.97.
Junior Garek Erskine took third in the 200 meters and, in a surprise move, placed first in long jump with a 19-11 jump, well above what he had been jumping all year both at meets and in practice. White says the jump came out of nowhere.
“The boys scored points where they needed,” White said.
Junior Daniel Sloan, who came to the team late into the season, placed first in the 400 meters with a time of 52.45.
“He has really helped this team out a lot,” White said of Sloan, adding how happy he was to have him on the squad.
Sophomore Colton Polezynski and freshman Tate Drane both ran another great 800 meter runs, winning first and second respectively. The race took place after a 30-minute lightning and rain delay. According to White, when the runners took to the track, both the winds and the rain picked up again.
Polezynski won with 2.09.84, and Drane was second with a 2.13.3.
Freshman Creede Wylie placed third in discus with a throw of 119-1.
Sloan placed third in high jump with a jump of 5-8.
Polezynski, the “dreadlock athlete,” took first in javelin with a throw of 115-5.
Junior Dean Hampton placed first in triple jump with a 40-5.5, and Erskine was close behind with a 39-10.5 leap.
The girls, with only eight able-bodied competitors, really joined together and brought their A game to the track.
“I don’t know if I can be more proud,” White said of the girls’ team.
Stoll won every event she competed in and also set personal records in each event. Stoll placed first in the 100 hurdles with a 16.79, first in the 300 hurdles with a 48.11, first in long jump with a 16-8.5 and first in triple jump with a 37-11.5.
Pajak was close behind, though competing with an injured ankle. Pajak placed second in the long jump with a 16-6.
Strohecker placed first in high jump with a 5-2.
The girls also won the 800 sprint medley, which was not expected under the circumstances.
White says that going into the league meet, the girls were seated 14th in the state. Kelsey Sellers was sick, with an infection and fever. The night before, White decided it would be best to scratch the race. He called Sellers and told her — she was sick, they had already qualified, it just wasn’t worth it. Sellers, though, did not agree.
“She said no, I’m committed to this team,” White recalled. White didn’t think they would run their best; he thought they’d finish the race and qualify for state with a previous time. However, White was surprised. The girls stepped up to the plate, illness and injury with them, and ran one second faster than their previous best time, barely qualifying them for state.
The state championship meet in Denver starts today and goes through Saturday.