CASPER – No matter which way he tweaked the results, Cheyenne Central girls track and field coach Sean Wilde had the race for the team championship going down to the wire.
He was right.
The Lady Indians took the lead for good with three events remaining and captured their second consecutive team title with 90 points. Laramie was state runner-up with 85.
“With all my most realistic calculations, it was always this close one way or the other,” Wilde said. “I knew it was going to come down to the last couple events.”
Central entered Saturday with a seven-point lead, but found itself trailing 69-66 with four events remaining after Laramie junior Emmy Johnson won the 300-meter hurdles.
Sophomore Elizabeth Prescott put the Indians ahead 70-69 with a fifth-place effort in the 400-meter dash.
Claudia Miller stretched the lead to 80-77 when she won the 1,600-meter run. It was her second win of the weekend after she claimed top honors in the 3,200 on Thursday.
“My plan was to go out strong from the start and control the race,” the senior said. “I settled in a little bit during the third lap and into the fourth lap.
“Once I got to the final 200, I just let it all go and tried to make sure no one could catch me.”
Senior Jenna Goodrich clinched the title for Central by placing third in the 200-meter dash for the second consecutive year. The Indians led 86-85 with only the 4x400 relay remaining.
“It feels amazing to be the race that sealed it, but it was a complete team effort this weekend,” said Goodrich, who also placed seventh in the 100.
“We needed everyone to put their best into these past couple of days if we wanted to win state again. That’s what we did,” Goodrich said.
“I knew I probably wasn’t going to win the race, but I wanted to run my absolute hardest and score as many points for my team as I could.”
Central added four more points with a fifth-place finish in the 4x400. Laramie didn’t have a team entered in that race.
“We had some kids really sell out and give everything they had,” Wilde said. “We had a lot of great performances contribute to this win.”
Senior Taylen Sewell placed third in the 100 hurdles (16.19 seconds), adding six points to the Indians’ team total.
Cheyenne East senior MacKenzie Marler placed third in the 1,600 (5:15.51). She was in a three-way battle for the spot entering the final lap. Marler pulled ahead with 300 meters remaining.
“I didn’t really have a plan,” said Marler, who will run at Oklahoma State. “It kind of hit me in the middle of that race that that was my last high school race. I wanted to finish it hard and be proud of the way my high school career ended.”
Marler’s Lady Thunderbirds finished eighth (45.5). Cheyenne South took 15th (7).
Casper Kelly Walsh won the boys team title with 101 points, while Sheridan was second at 97. East was fifth (69) and Central eighth (46).
Dakota Merritt nearly had the wrap around his right thigh fall off during the preliminary heats of the 400-meter dash. He still had the fourth-fastest qualifying time despite the mishap.
The Cheyenne East senior had no such equipment troubles during Saturday’s finals.
Merritt pulled ahead of the field as it turned for home and won the state title in 50.26 seconds.
“I had to maintain my form and trust all the work I’ve put in up to this point,” said Merritt, who was second in the same event as a junior.
The bandage wrapped around Merritt’s right thigh was to help with a hip flexor injury he suffered on the second day of training for the outdoor season. The injury limited him to only a few meets. He spent a lot of time on a stationary bike, and started running
two miles per day over the final few weeks of the season to improve his conditioning.
“I was a little nervous because I haven’t been able to train the way I would have liked,” he said. “I had a good weekend and left it all out there.”
Tanner Pafford has long known that technique helped him become one of 4A’s top hurdlers. He expected technique to help him when rain and snow started falling Saturday morning.
Pafford finished the 110-meter hurdles in 15.29 seconds to earn second-place honors. He also captured seventh in the 300 hurdles (42.42).
“When the track gets wet, the faster guys are impacted more,” the senior said. “I’m not one of the faster guys in the field. I’m a more technical hurdler, and that technique translates well in bad weather.”
East senior Jefferson Danso placed fifth in the 110 hurdles (15.93).
Classmate Sam Hageman finished third in the 200 (22.72) and fourth in the 100 (11.45). He was the 2018 state champion in both events.