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Cortez’s Zander Cruzan wins two state track titles

Montezuma-Cortez senior Zander Cruzan opens up a lead in the 100 meters at the Intermountain League championship meet at Panther Stadium on April 28. Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal
Dove Creek boys finish second at state championships

One-thousandth of a second – that’s what it took to fire up M-CHS senior Zander Cruzan.

Opening his Saturday with three chances to win three titles, Cruzan faced a showdown with Jefferson Academy standout Chrisly Kelly-Cannon in the 100-meter dash.

The duo put on a show – screaming down the Jefferson County Stadium straightaway. After the pair crossed the finish line in a dead heat, all eyes turned to the scoreboard. First came the confirmation that Kelly-Cannon and Cruzan had matched the existing 3A state record – 10.61.

Then, after an interminable wait, the photo finish results revealed the bad news – Kelly-Cannon had edged Cruzan by one-thousandth of a second (10.604 to 10.605).

There would be no time for self-pity, however, because Cruzan, much like he had all season long, was on a mission. The senior would not require photo verification for either of his next two races.

Scarcely an hour after his disappointment in the 100, Cruzan found dominating redemption in the 400 meters, scorching under 49 seconds to top the 3A field and stand triumphantly atop the podium in Lakewood. His winning time of 48.76 served as the second new school record he would set over the weekend.

Icing on the cake came in a second chance against Kelly-Cannon in the 200, where Cruzan looked to get the last laugh. Storming out of the blocks, Cruzan build a slight edge, and wouldn’t relinquish as he pulled away for a victory by nearly two-tenths of a second (21.47 to 21.65), nearly a full second ahead of third place.

A pair of state titles seemed to be a fitting conclusion to an impressive high school career for the UNC Greeley-bound Cruzan – finishing his career in orange-and-black much like he had all season long, standing at the top of the heap – and with three school records to his name.

M-CHS freshman Marlee Mack made the most of her state track and field meet debut, not only qualifying in both hurdle events, but making finals in the 100 and 300. The fleet freshman made the podium in ninth place for both events, finishing the 100 in 16.69 and the 300 in 52.82.

The Panthers final performance on the weekend came in the boys 4x100 relay, where the squad narrowly missed finals, taking 13th in a time of 44.45. M-CHS took 12th as a team in state, finishing with 28 points.

Dove Creek positioned themselves right in the team title hunt from the opening events, as senior Kendall Gardner took seventh in the discus (121-8). Gardner added a fourth-place leap in the triple jump (40-9), just in front of classmate Quaden Huffaker (fifth, 40-7).

Friday’s action focused primarily on relays, and the Bulldogs battled to a number of podium finishes, including in the 4x200 relay (fifth, 1:37.45) with a team of Colten Fury, Cole Taber, Cody Alexander and Dustin Glover. Barely an hour later, the 4x800 relay tacked on another point with a ninth-place race (9:16.92).

Saturday’s field events continued to pay dividends for head coach Jason Fury’s group, as all four Bulldog long jumpers earned all-state honors, with senior Kade Hankins leading the convoy with a third-place finish (21-1), ahead of Gardner in fourth place (20-2), Huffaker in fifth (19-6 ¼), and Taber in eighth (19-0).

Hankins doubled in the hurdles, earning another third-place medal with an effort of 16.14 in the 110 event, then matching the feat in the 300 with a time of 41.84.

Bobby Pastorius took eighth in the 300 hurdles (45.29), while Alexander took sixth in the 110s (17.78).

All the while, the Bulldogs kept trading points with the rest of the 1A contenders, which by Saturday afternoon had thinned to four teams. Dove Creek’s 4x100 (45.03) took second and the 4x400 (3:45.81) finished ninth to inch closer to the top spot, but Cheraw had just enough down the stretch to take the state title with 85 points, while Dove Creek claimed the runner-up trophy with 69 points, beating out third-place Sanford (60).

The Dove Creek girls scored a pair of all-state finishes on the opening day of the championships, with senior Tara Glover earning fourth place in the shot put (34’-1) and sophomore Ralynn Hickman capturing fifth in the long jump (15-1½).

A day later, Hickman joined senior Trista Barnett, freshman Ambrynn Huffaker, and Aspen Nye to take sixth in the 4x800 relay (11:16.82).

Glover’s all-state double continued with a sixth-place finish in the discus, matching teammate Rylee Hickman with throws of (104 feet even), with Hickman taking fifth-place on a tie-breaker.

Barnett would compete in both hurdle events, taking ninth in the 300 and 10th in the 100, then joined the fifth-place 4x100 relay with Ralynn and Rylee Hickman, along with Ambrynn Huffaker for the final scoring for the Bulldogs in the championships. Dove Creek’s girls finished tied for 11th with local rival Nucla, scoring 30 points apiece, while Merino won the team title with 88 points.

Mancos picked up an all-state performance from junior Levi Martin in the long jump, where the Bluejay propelled himself 20-1-½ to take sixth overall in the 2A field.

Bluejay teammates Jonah Ritter and Spencer Eschallier made their inaugural state appearances in the high jump, where both cleared 5-7, with tie-breakers placing Ritter 14th and Eschallier 16th.

The Mancos girls contingent of Brooke Jabour and Teagan Archer raced to 17th place finishes in the 800 and 3,200, respectively, with Jabour racing the 800 in 2:40.77 and Archer finishing the two-mile in 13:05.56.

Dolores’ representative, freshman Micheal Rantz, narrowly missed the finals in the 2A 400 meters, racing to a time of 52.30, good for 12th overall in the meet.