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San Juan League teams tune up at Panther Invite

Mancos freshman Jonah Ritter arches to clear the bar in the high jump at the Panther Invitational in Cortez. Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal
Area teams prep for Tuesday’s showdown in Mancos

The San Juan Basin League meet Tuesday is sure to hold plenty of twists and turns, as the girls title race appears to be as wide open as its ever been.

Dove Creek, Dolores and Mancos appear poised to battle for the top spot on the podium, while Nucla will look to have a say in the proceedings at Mancos. The final showcase for the area schools came Friday in the Panther Invitational – and while the IML schools dueled for their league champion, the rest of the SJBL kept eyeing what they will face in their own league meet.

The Bulldogs made the best showing at the Panther Invitational, taking fourth as a team on the strength of a bundle of high finishes.

Senior Tara Glover earned the only individual title of the day – winning the discus with a throw of 104 feet, 4 inches, but the Bulldogs added top-four finishes in seven events in the loaded field. Glover added a runner-up shot put (33-3¼), while classmate Rylee Hickman took third in the discus (90-9).

Trista Barnett took third and fourth in the 300 (52.37) and 100 hurdles (17.58), as she continues to seek state qualification in both events. Sophomore Aspen Nye took third in the 3,200 (15:50.33), and Ralynn Hickman garnered fourth in the triple jump (29-6½) to join a third place 4x100 relay squad (56.21).

Dove Creek compiled 56 points in the meet, just behind top SJBL team Nucla, who took third with 60 points.

The Dolores girls will look to make their mark in the relays and distance events, as the Bears compiled their strongest showings in the 4x800 (third, 11:57.24) and 4x400 (fourth, 4:55.40).

Sophomores Elia and Maya Lowe took fourth (2:45.39) and sixth (2:49.64), respectively, in the 800, while classmate Everlee Heaton claimed eighth in the 1,600 (7:05.15). Isla Vaughn added a 12th-place run in the 400 (1:15.67) as the Bears finished with 21 team points in the meet.

Mancos enters the fray Tuesday as the defending league champions and hopes that their home track will spur an encore. The Bluejays enjoyed a strong day from Aysia Mathews, as the freshman posted a third-place triple jump (29-9) and a sixth-place high jump (4-6). The Bluejays added a runner-up 4x800 relay team (11:50.18) to their point total.

Sophomore Adaline Kearns took 14th in the 200 (30.16), and freshman Hope Manning matched the placement in the 400 (1:16.80). Mancos finished the meet with 17 points.

Dove Creek’s boys team looks to continue their stellar spring with a league title and has the pedigree to head into Mancos with confidence.

The Bulldogs took fourth in the Panther Invitational, earning 71 points to outdistance the nearest SJBL opposition.

Dove Creek senior Kade Hankins launches himself to a meet-winning long jump at the Ron Keller Invitational at Durango High School. Ben Bradley/ Special to The Journal

Dove Creek piled up points in the field events and hurdles, with senior Kade Hankins leading the way with wins in both the 110 (16.51) and 300 hurdles (43.60), while classmate Kendall Gardner won the triple jump (39-1¼), just in front of Quaden Huffaker (fourth, 37-3) and Cole Taber (fifth, 36-7¾).

Hankins, Taber, and Huffaker all scored in the long jump as well, with Hankins taking runner-up (19-11).

Cody Alexander earned sixth in the 110 hurdles (18.18), and Colten Fury took eighth in the 400 (58.74), and Sheldon Gardner took eighth in the discus (93-9).

The Dolores boys will look to use one of their biggest teams in recent years to play a major factor in the SJBL chase. Freshman Micheal Rantz continues to impress, as his 400 time of 56.90 earned him fourth in the meet and places him among the favorites for the league title on Tuesday.

Junior Ty Gaddis added a seventh-place finish in the 300 hurdles (46.25), while freshman Bridger Beyhan claimed ninth in the 800 (2:23.99). The Bears’ 4x200 relay took fifth (1:47.56) in a well-stocked field, while freshman Aaron Nielson showed his range, competing in the 100, 800 and 1,600, taking tenth in the mile (5:42.35).

Mancos’ push for a third straight league crown will lean on strong sprinting and jumps, as the Bluejays will bring freshman standout Jonah Ritter to the meet as one of the top sprinters in the area. Ritter claimed sixth in the 200 (24.03) and cleared 5-8 in the high jump to match teammate Spencer Eschallier in placing in the event.

Eschallier added a 12th place long jump, and senior Braxton Dennison will look to pick up big points in the distance events, coming off a 10th-place 800 (2:24.85). Junior Levi Martin raced to a 13th place 100 meters (11.93), just in front of teammate Colby Lewis (12.79).

The San Juan Basin League meet will kick off on Tuesday morning in Mancos, with the battle for area track and field supremacy on the line.