Last May at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood, Josh Trahan watched Vista Ridge, a school just opened in 2008, win the school's first state title of any kind by claiming the 4A boys' track and field championship.
Trahan runs the track and field program at Palmer Ridge, which also opened its doors that same year. He can only hope for similar success next month, the longtime Bears coach choosing his words wisely when sizing up the Bears' potential as the track and field season enters its final phase.
"I want the kids to keep improving," said Trahan, the only coach Palmer Ridge has had in the school's six seasons. "Our plan is to continue doing what we're doing."
What the Bears are doing - and doing well - is turning in solid efforts in a variety of events on the track and in the field. Heading into Saturday's Palmer Ridge Invitational, the Bears boast athletes in 10 events (out of 18 total) with efforts that, if the season ended today, would qualify for the 4A state meet.
In addition, Palmer Ridge's 800- and 1,600-meter relay teams have clocked the fastest times in the state among 4A competition.
"Being No. 1 right now is fine and dandy, but it won't mean a hill of beans until they perform on May 17," Bears athletic director Jim Porter said. "We have 130 kids in the track program, so that says something for what the kids feel about Josh. Some of the kids in our earlier classes set the tone, and the guys following are reaching higher."
In the sprinting events, sophomore Caleb Ojennes ranks second in the 400 (48.58 seconds) and third in the 200 (22.33), while Josh Bethany has shined in the 800 (ranked seventh) and 1,600 (sixth). Junior Eric Hamer has recorded the state's third-fastest time among 4A runners in the 3,200.
Evan Malin and Thomas Busath give the Bears their best chance at a hurdling state title since Hunter Warwick swept the category in 2011.
And in the field events, three pole vaulters and two triple jumpers who currently have state-qualifying distances give Palmer Ridge a chance at scoring more points.
The Bears finished ninth in the team standings in 2011, their best ever, but could be poised for better results if things come together in Lakewood for the three-day meet, scheduled for May 15-17.
"To be completely honest, I'm not surprised," Trahan said. "We were pretty good last year, but just a little young. The kids just had to develop, and they've worked really hard. I wish I could take credit. We're fortunate to have talented kids. We had a feeling they could be pretty good. Now we just have to stay healthy and keep working hard."