The local high school outdoor track and field season breaks out of the starting block Saturday with the annual Banana Belt Invitational at Colorado State University-Pueblo’s DeRose ThunderBowl.
The starting time is 9 a.m.
Pueblo has a couple of top state contenders in South High School jumper Nicholas Meihaus and Centennial distance runner Michael Duran.
Meihaus, a senior, finished second in the Class 4A high jump at the state meet with a leap of 6 feet, 7 inches and placed sixth in the pole vault (14-0). The Colts finished in a tie for eighth place in the team race last spring.
Duran qualified in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs last year as a freshman.
The Bulldogs sophomore finished third at the Class 4A state cross-country meet this past fall.
Centennial: Coach Tim Mondragon returns 12 lettermen led by sophomore distance runner Michael Duran, who finished sixth in the 1,600-meter run with a personal best 4:24.50 and 12th in the 3,200 at last year’s 4A state meet. Also returning are sprinter/hurdler Aaron Garcia, Vincent Parker and Sean Regelado-Love, Jair Flores and Brady Moore in the distance races, jumpers John Scoleri, Michael Sumpter and Jumanne Transour and weightman Demitrius Miller. “We have 49 boys out and should be very competitive in the distance events, the hurdles and jumps,” Mondragon said.
Central: The Wildcats are young but experienced with 12 returning lettermen, said Central coach Dean Gray. The Cats have depth in the sprints with Nikko Valdez, Jalen DeHerrera, Jordon Quintero, Michael Ranson, Wyatt Thomas, Kaleb Mora and Tyrin Turner; Andre Bustamante in the middle distance race; Stephan Zapata, Jack Kochenberger and Noah Clero and Andrew Burns in the distance races; and Beau Gordon and Dominic Sinatra in the discus and shot put. “We are very young, but I am looking forward to watching them grow and improve throughout the season,” Gray said.
Dolores Huerta: Color the Scorpions green, starting with first-year coach Thad Sinker, who will have six boys competing this season. They include junior Bryce Armijo and five sophomores — Abram Montoya, A.J. Pence, Beau Garcia, Nick Esquibel and Roberto Espinosa.
East: Second-year coach Dave Villegos is delighted with the turnout this year. State qualifier Keaton Brown, who finished 10th in the shot put (49-0 1/2), is the top returnee. The Eagles also return Jonah Archuleta and Aaron Aragon, two members of a 3,200 relay team that finished fifth (8:06.11). Other returnees are sprinter Isaiah Bachicha, Gorgio Rivera in the middle distances, hurdler Danny Gibbons and jumpers Bryson Torres and Daniel Martinez.
Pueblo County: The loss of some quality seniors leaves Pueblo County “extremely inexperienced,” coach Dan Radiff said. The Hornets have a lone state qualifier in long jumper Lane Lanier, who finished 16th (20-0 1/2). Other returnees are seniors Isaac Ruybal, Nathan Impson, Sam Nitka, Dave Baca; juniors Mike Crane, Zach Gonzales, Dustin Campbell, Jay Baker, Dyllan Hernandez; and sophomores Damacio Vigil, Devon William and Matt Niichel.
Pueblo West: The Cyclones again will be strong in distance races with three state-caliber runners — Wyatt Swanson, Zack Retzlaff and Jace Montera. Montera finished 13th in the 1,600 (4:30.82) as a sophomore, while Retzlaff qualified in the 1,600 and 3,200 but was sidelined by illness. Other returnees are Ben McInnis, Caden Wills, Jordan Smith, Tyler Pitts, Josh Casias, Miguel Colon and Tristen Ross. Newcomers include Shane Larson, Josh Leyba, Xavier Lucero, Garrett Wagers, Cameron Vaughan and Aaron Kinnischtzke.
South: Besides Meihaus, the Colts return state qualifiers in shot putters Isaiah Palacio, who finished sixth (50-3), and Nick Garcia, who was seventh (50-0) last year. Also returning are distance runner Charlie Lucero, sprinter Jeremiah Montoya, Jacob Cody in the middle distance races and discus thrower Liam Toomey. “We will be strong in the field events with Meihaus, Palacio and Garcia,” Graham said. “We have some young guys that will need to develop in the sprints, relays and distance as well as long jump and triple jump.”
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