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Paul Klee: How Harrison's Jamaica-born sprinter won state track and field gold without warming up

By: Paul Klee
May 19, 2018 Updated: May 19, 2018 at 9:27 pm
Caption +
Harrison's Tyrese Vanhorne sits atop the winner's stand after winning the 4A 200 meters. Although conditions were rainy and cold, the final day of Colorado State Track ran without any delays at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood, Colorado on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

LAKEWOOD — Found him.

“I don’t really like Colorado at all.”

So you’re the one, Tyrese Vanhorne.

“I mean, it’s OK here. But I’m cold! Like, always!”

I had heard rumors this person exists. Who knew he’d be as fast as a hiccup? It was Saturday afternoon at wind-blown, rain-soaked JeffCo Stadium that the young man, the myth, the legend emerged like Bigfoot from his backwoods haunt. It took a horribly cold day to flush him out.

The other eight state finalists in the Class 4A 200 meters were already on the track, anxiously going through their warm-up routines — high-stepping, stretching, bouncing in place. And here comes Tyrese, maybe 5-foot-8 in his neon Puma cleats, trudging down from the upper parking lot.

What’s he doing? The state final starts in two minutes!

“Cut it kinda close,” he told me afterward.

Why? Tyrese is from Jamaica, and he was cold. To be specific, everyone at the CHSAA state track and field championships was cold. Tyrese is the one guy who told the truth about being cold. The average high temperature here on May 19 is 73 degrees, according to meteorologist Chris Bianchi of WeatherNation. The high temperature on my cell phone Saturday? Forty-two degrees, total, and that’s without the steady drizzle and stupid wind. Tyrese moved here from Jamaica at age 12 — “My dad wanted me to have better opportunities” — and snow was something you saw on TV. “I remember the first time, I was like, what’s this falling from the sky?” he recalled.

So here’s how the sophomore (yep) from Harrison High prepped for his final individual race at the state meet: Tyrese stayed in his father’s truck, blasted the heat, shed four layers of clothes (“Sweatshirt, sweatpants, t-shirt, another t-shirt...”), dreamt of the warm, sunny beach back home and...

Dude won a state title. His 200 meters lasted longer (21.39 seconds) than his warmup (00.00 seconds). His post-race chat with yours truly lasted longer (13:03) than his frozen toes preferred. I say this with full confidence: you’ve never seen a state champion so utterly miserable.

“I gotta find somewhere warm,” Vanhorne said.

I asked around, trying to find someone who’s won state gold without a warmup. Jalen Lyon is freaky fast like Jimmy John’s, and even the Fountain-Fort Carson star thought Vanhorne was an enigma. Lyon wasn’t worried about the wintry conditions on Saturday. On the ride up from Colorado Springs, he was more concerned about not throwing up into a trash can he had grabbed from the front of the bus, just in case. 

“For some reason,” Lyon said, “I was super nervous about today.”

Fountain-Fort Carson won the Class 5A state title. Take that, nerves.

“No warmup, though?” Lyon said. “Tyrese, nothing but respect for him. That’s my guy.”

Tommy Harmon won gold in the 1A pole vault. When the Pikes Peak Christian junior glanced outside his house Saturday morning, Harmon had a far different reaction than Vanhorne. (Tyrese told me he uttered a naughty word under his breath.) In frigid weather, Harmon was forced to use a different vaulting pole, one he’d never used, at state or otherwise.

“The normal pole will shoot you backwards (if you don’t make the change),” Harmon said.

Rock Canyon star Emily Sloan, maybe the greatest hurdler in state history, probably doesn’t need a warmup. She has a strict one, anyway. Sloan finished her career with six state titles and looked at me sideways when I told her about the state champ who won without a warmup.

“Everyone keeps saying I should get used to this weather,” said Sloan.

She should. She’s going to run track at Oregon. Tyrese, on the other hand, should recruit Hawaii to recruit him. He might never get used to it, but imagine if he does. His best race is the 400, but he finished fifth in that. He said the issue was his shoes, which were soaked through and totally uncomfortable. Then he finished ninth — dead last — in the 100-meter final. All of which makes his gold in the 200 meters even more impressive. Saturday was definitely out of Vanhorne’s element. He won anyway.

“I can’t feel my hands.”

Sprinting is in a Jamaican’s blood, he said. “Usain (Bolt), he is the man,” Vanhorne said. Tyrese’s father moved to the U.S. in 1999 and works for a Springs company that builds swimming pools. I asked his dad a question maybe you've wondered, too: why are so many Jamaicans so fast?

“It's true, it's true. It's part of the culture. When we were growing up, we didn’t have good tracks. We run on dirt and grass,” Colin Vanhorne said. “Then you come here, (and) it’s very nice. Good tracks, good running.”

"I'm very proud of him," dad said.

Tyrese was so cold he couldn’t remember his finishing time.

“Did you see what it was?”

Gold in the cold.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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