Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Michelle Simmons bolted from the starting blocks and sprinted down the track, running like she might be late to the prom.
Not to worry.
Simmons, an Ignacio High School junior, beat everyone to the finish line, winning the 100-meter dash Saturday at the annual Abel Velasquez Invitational and finishing in plenty of time for Saturday night’s prom at the Sky Ute Casino.
“I’m actually surprised,” Simmons said after her 100-meter victory at Wolverine Country Stadium in Bayfield.
“Honestly, I thought she (Lexi Atkinson of Dolores) was right beside me (at the tape),” said Simmons, daughter of Kelly Herrera.
But Atkinson, one of the premier Class 2A sprinters in the state, was a half-step back. Simmons won in 13.45 against a stern wind. Atkinson was second in 13.52.
“My blocks have gotten way better,” said Simmons, crediting her fast start.
“Originally, I wasn’t going to run this, but now I’m glad I did. This made my day better ... a lot,” said Simmons, who was disappointed in her second-place finish in the high jump earlier Saturday.
Simmons cleared 5-0 in chilly conditions Saturday morning, but Pagosa Springs sophomore Taylor Strohecker won by jumping 5-3.
Simmons’ teammate Sky Cotton, a freshman, followed Simmons’ lead in the 200 meters. Cotton finished second (28.85) to Cassie Lard of Dolores (27.71).
Their points helped the Ignacio girls finish fourth in the annual meet hosted by the Bobcats at Bayfield’s track complex.
The field of the original six members of the former San Juan League was led by Class 3As Bayfield and Pagosa Springs. The Bayfield girls won the meet with 166 points. Pagosa Springs was second with 119 points, one more than the Class 2A Dolores girls.
Ignacio was fourth with 53 points; Dove Creek (37) and Mancos (22) followed – all 2A schools.
The Bayfield boys posted 172 points to 134 for second-place Pagosa Springs. Mancos was third at 72, with Dolores fourth (66) and Ignacio fifth (56). Dove Creek was sixth (17).
Cotton said the 200 meters was difficult with a steady headwind down the final stretch in front of the bleachers.
“The wind was hitting my face, but I tried to push through it as hard as I could,” said Cotton, daughter of Fred and Jennifer Cotton.
“I PR’d on that one,” she said of her all-time best time.
Earlier, Sky Cotton was the first to console older sister Pam Cotton, who suffered a leg injury in the 800 sprint medley relay. The Bobcats finished second in the medley relay with Simmons, Sky Cotton, Pam Cotton and Cloe Seibel.
Sky Cotton also finished fifth in the girls long jump (14-10.5).
Dusty Mangus, Shane Richmond and Colton Wyatt of the Ignacio boys all placed in multiple events Saturday.
Richmond scored in four. The Ignacio senior was second in the discus (124-7), third in the shot put (43-5), fourth in the pole vault (9-6) and eighth in the triple jump (31-5.5).
Wyatt, also a senior, finished fourth in both the shot and discus for Ignacio.
Mangus led the Bobcats by clearing a career-high 13 feet to win the pole vault.
“Everything was comfortable (Saturday), and that’s exactly what you need,” Mangus said. “I’d rather be comfortable and slow than fast and not comfortable.”
He beat friendly rival Steele Allred of Bayfield. John Arnold of the Wolverines ended up second (11-6). Bayfield freshman Michael Voss finished third (11-0).
“He (Allred) had a bad day (Saturday). But that can happen,” Mangus said.
“We’re definitely pushing each other. It’s competitive, but I really want him to do well, and he really wants me to do well,” said Mangus, son of Patsy and Rollo Mangus.
Mangus also finished third in the 100 meters and fourth in the 200 meters. And he added a fifth in the long jump (18-5.25), one of three events won by TJ Pazell of Bayfield.
Pazell, a junior, won the long jump at 19-11.5, the triple jump at 39-9.5 and the shot put at 46-4.
In his fourth event, Pazell and the BHS 4x200 relay team finished second to Pagosa Springs.
Other BHS boys champions Saturday included freshman Luke Webb in the 3,200 (11:25.91), Keith Wickman in the 200 meters (24.49) and the 4x400 relay team of Robert Westbrook, Joey Webb, Allec Rodriguez and Nate Tate.
Candace Shaw, Katy Funkhouser and the relay teams paced the powerhouse BHS girls team.
Shaw won the discus (119-5) and finished third in the shot (22-2). The BHS senior was seventh in the triple jump (29-8.75).
Funkhouser raced away to win the 1,600 in 6:06.00. Seibel of Ignacio was second.
Bayfield also won the girls 4x800 relay Saturday behind Darby Boggess, Danielle Miller, Maggie Zink and Haley Clarke.
But the most dramatic victory Saturday came in the boys discus.
Aaron Velasquez of Bayfield, the grandson of the namesake of the meet, won the event with a throw of 141 feet, 7 inches.
He won by 17 feet.
“It is special because he’s the one that pretty much taught me everything (about track and field),” Aaron Velasquez said of his grandfather, Abel Velasquez.
“He taught me from seventh grade on up,” said the younger Velasquez, son of Gus and Tina Velasquez.
Like his grandfather, Aaron Velasquez was an all-state football player and standout wrestler.
Abel Velasquez, who coached for more than 30 years in Ignacio, died two years ago. Up until then, he had been a fixture at high school track meets.
“He loved it,” Aaron Velasquez said. “He liked everything about (high school track).”
Kathy Herrera, the assistant coach at IHS, agreed.
“This was a good day for the Abel Velasquez,” Herrera said.
“It’s always a hard day for those of us who knew him, but I think we made him proud.”