Track and field: Abel Velasquez style

Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file photo

Looking back, Dusty Mangus and Ignacio High School had a pretty good go-around at the Pine River Invitational at Wolverine Country Stadium earlier this month. Looking ahead, the Bobcats will vault into their own Abel Velasquez Invitational on today at Bayfield’s stadium.

By Dale Strode Herald staff writer

For decades, Abel Velasquez of Ignacio High School was a fixture at track and field meets.

If there was a meet in the Four Corners, Velasquez was there.

Regional championships and state meets?

Velasquez was there.

The longtime coach of the Bobcats was revered by more than the Bobcats before his death two years ago. In his 30-plus years of coaching, he specialized in the throwing events and selflessly shared his knowledge with athletes from each and every school.

“Coach Velasquez was all about competing hard and having fun,” said Rocky Cundiff, the current Ignacio head track and field coach and director of today’s Abel Velasquez Invitational.

“That’s what we want for the kids (today),” Cundiff said of the annual meet that will be held this year at Wolverine Country Stadium in Bayfield.

Ignacio High School will host the Abel Velasquez meet again in his honor, using the track and field complex and the timing system in Bayfield. That’s the same cooperative spirit Velasquez embodied, Cundiff said.

Today’s meet will feature the original six teams in the old San Juan League, a throwback to 25 years ago when all six schools were closer to the same size.

The lineup will include Bayfield, Dolores, Dove Creek, Ignacio, Mancos and Pagosa Springs.

“At this point, it’s all about getting better and moving up,” Cundiff said.

Today’s times and distances will be eligible for state-qualifying consideration – 2A marks for Dolores, Dove Creek, Ignacio and Mancos; 3A marks for Bayfield and Pagosa Springs.

“Really, the kids all better get PRs (personal records),” Cundiff said with a hearty chuckle. “They better get PRs, or I’ll be chasing them.”

Cundiff said today’s meet will start with field events at 9 a.m. Track events will begin at 10 a.m. With the smaller field, the meet is scheduled to conclude by 3:30 p.m.

A number of state-ranking individuals in Class 2A and 3A are on the entry sheets for the Abel Velasquez Invitational.

In fact, Kenny Philpott of Mancos is the No.1-ranked high jumper in Class 2A Colorado. He cleared 6-6 on March 23 to reach the top spot. He’ll jump first thing this morning in Bayfield.

Michelle Simmons of the host Bobcats is among the state leaders in three events – high jump, 100 meters and 200 meters. Her 5-2 jump currently ranks No. 4 in the state. She ranks 14th in the 100 (13.36) and 15th in the 200 (27.71).

And she’s got plenty of company with the sprinters from Dolores, who are ranked No. 1 in the state in the girls 4x100 relay.

The Bears are anchored by Lexi Atkinson, who is ranked No. 2 in the long jump and No. 8 in the 100 meters (13.20).

Cassie Lard of Dolores has the fourth fastest 200-meter time in 2A this year (26.87). Lard also has the fifth-best triple jump in 2A (34-5.25).

Shane Richmond and Colton Wyatt of the Ignacio boys also come in ranked among the best in 2A in the discus and the shot put.

Dusty Mangus of the Bobcats sits at No. 2 in the 2A pole vault (12-3). Teammate Teagan Overturf is ranked No. 6 (11-6).

They’ll jump today against Steele Allred of Bayfield, one of the state’s top Class 3A pole vaulters.

Also in Class 3A, Bayfield and Pagosa Springs will bring a bevy of high-ranking tracksters to today’s meet.

The Wolverines are led by Samantha Espinosa, Candace Shaw, Aaron Velasquez and a host of others.

Velasquez is ranked No. 3 in the 3A boys discus (147-7).

Shaw is among the state leaders in the discus (No. 10) and the triple jump (No. 15), even though she just took up the triple jump three weeks ago.

Gabby Pajak and Toni Stoll on the Pagosa Springs’ girls team both rank among the 3A leaders. Stoll is the No. 2 triple jumper (26-3.25) and No. 4 long jumper (16-6.5).

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