Published: May 19, 2013
LAKEWOOD - As Noah Gabel turned on the jets to reclaim the lead for Vista Ridge on the 1,600-meter relay, his three teammates could sense victory as they urged the senior to the finish line.
Gabel, along with fellow seniors Aaron Johnson, Pierre Copeland and Darrian Morgan, then celebrated in earnest once the clock showed the Wolves had set a 4A meet record in the final event, some kind of exclamation point on an historic afternoon at Jeffco Stadium.
Then, the celebrating continued as Vista Ridge raised the boys' 4A team trophy for the young school's first state title in any sport.
"We're super jazzed about this, and it took everything we had to do it," second-year Wolves coach Jay Peltier said.
"We won't sleep much tonight."
The fifth-year program leaned on the collective efforts of eight individuals and three relay teams to amass 80 points, 12 better than Valor Christian. Gabel claimed the team's lone individual victory by winning the long jump Friday, but he and his teammates reached the finals in 11 of the 18 events Saturday, providing a versatile and multitalented stream of points.
"Teamwork, that's exactly what it was," Peltier said. "Now, seeing them hold that trophy, it's totally surreal. The past few weeks, we've had a goal in mind, and everyone helped each other out. They were ready to do this, but everything had to come together at the right time."
The Wolves specialized in anything 400 meters or less on the track, along with the three jump events on the field. In addition to the 1,600 relay, the Wolves finished second in the 800 relay and third in the 400.
"Of all the boys who made it to state, each one made the finals, and that was a blessing," Morgan said.
"It was hard work and great coaching. Our senior class wanted to leave a legacy. We'll see where it goes from here."
Five months ago, five of the Wolves' track and field athletes trudged off their home football stadium after a second-round playoff loss to eventual state-champion Monarch. Johnson, who played that game through a dislocated shoulder and crack in his right collarbone, lost much of his senior basketball season trying to heal up for one last shot at track and field glory.
Now, there's a trophy that tells the story of Vista Ridge's rise, from nothing four years ago through a third-place finish in 2012. The Wolves think this could only be the beginning of an era, just a matter of time before more trophies join the one earned Saturday.
"It feels good to end the year like this," said Johnson, a tight end headed for Eastern New Mexico. "I'm just speechless. We all just wanted it for the team. We didn't win many events, but we won the war."