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Column: DHS track and field is in good hands with underclassmen

Upperclassmen showed them the way
Durango track and field athletes Charlie Dillman, Miles Snow and AJ Bonanno line up before the 1600-meter run at the Ron Keller Invitational on April 20 at DHS. (Courtesy of Michelle Bonanno)

The 2024 Colorado high school track and field season is over, and for many of Durango High School’s track and field athletes, this was their last season on the team.

This season was filled with ups and downs, athletes climbing to varsity and surprising standout performances. However, the biggest theme by far was the older generation of juniors and seniors passing the torch to the future star sophomores and freshmen.

Senior athletes like Charlie Dillman and Brodie Dorko of the distance team, Kaleb Roberts, Jaxon Fancher and Mason Palmer of the sprinting team, Leith Davis of the throwers and Ethan Flores and Micah Zastrocky of the hurdling squad have all been cultural and competitive leaders for the past two years as upperclassmen. Dillman and Fancher were named the two boys team season MVPs, while Flores and Zastrocky were chosen to be the honorary senior managers for the state trip.

Current juniors have also been important parts of the team and they are ready to take on the responsibilities of being senior leaders come next season. The throwing trio of Megan Hutchins, Violet Mazenko, and Bryce Hughes are all deserving of recognition. Xavier Sutherlin of the hurdling team was also essential to the Demons’ success in 2024. Sutherlin and Hutchins were two of the fourteen Durango athletes who qualified for state and Sutherlin finished ninth in the 110 hurdles (earning him a podium spot).

For the distance team, junior standouts included Bryn Aggeler, Dewa Ilg, and Sofia Voss. On the sprinting side, Ainsley Sampson and Malakai Baier were the two biggest stars.

However, upperclassmen weren’t the only bright spots on the team, far from it.

For the hurdlers, there’s Evie Morris (10th grade), Aileen McManus (10th grade) and Arrow Nachtreib (ninth grade). For the sprinters, it was the sophomore duo of Seb Tripp and Will Zahradnik and the freshman pairing of George Preston and Mason Miller. All four were part of the group selected to go to Southwestern League and are poised to make an impact for the rest of their careers.

The girls sprinting trio of Juliana McKown, Joey Rohde, and Molly Bertrand (all sophomores) established themselves this season on the SWL team and will only continue to rise up the ranks.

The boys distance team was very strong this year but will be losing three of its strongest members, two to graduation and one to foreign exchange. Dillman was the star and anchored the 4x800 team at state. He was also league champion in the 800 and 3200. Dorko has been a core part of the distance team for his entire career, and he was the first leg of the 4x800 team.

Sophomore Miles Snow was the third leg of the state 4x800 team, and a very solid number-two runner all year. He’ll be on foreign exchange in Poland next year.

Finally, sophomore Slader Schweitz, who was the second leg of the state 4x800 team. He will be taking on a much bigger role next year, with Dillman, Dorko and Snow gone. Additionally, freshmen Jack Purcell and Rocco Enea will be looking to build on their solid ninth grade seasons and secure a varsity spot.

The girls distance team is in good hands, as they won’t be losing anyone after an excellent 2024 campaign. Voss will return after a season plagued by circulation issues in her lower legs.

Despite the challenges, Voss performed at a very high level until SWL, which was her last meet of the year. She was part of the 4x800 and 4x400 teams that qualified for state, but she couldn’t run at state (due to the issues with her legs). She is currently recovering from a second surgery and is hopeful for an uninterrupted senior season.

Voss was challenged for her spot as the number one girls distance runner, though. Freshman Lacy Ruggiero came into the season strong and only got stronger, winning a number of races and leading the girls distance team into state in Voss’ absence.

Ruggiero was one of the most consistent runners of the season and will continue to excel. She won the 800 and 1600 at the Tiger Invite, was the SWL champion in the 1600, and went to state to anchor the girls 4x400 team.

Another freshman phenom and one of the most exciting members of the team is jumper Donovan Whitehead.

Whitehead won high jump and triple jump at almost every meet he attended and placed seventh at state in the high jump. He was also a quarter of an inch away from making state in the triple jump. Whitehead is already one of the biggest stars of the Demon track team and all of his coaches are very excited to see what he can accomplish in the future.

The DHS throwers will only be losing one athlete to graduation. Hutchins, Mazenko and sophomore Oshi Reider were all ranked in the top 25 in the state in the girls shot put. Mazenko and Reider also ended the season ranked in the top 30 in girls discus, so the future of DHS throwing is very bright.

In addition to gaining some excellent new freshmen, this was also the inaugural season for two coaches.

With the retirement of legendary DHS track and cross country coach Ron Keller (who has coached on and off since the 1980s), Miller Middle School distance coach Michael Fadil stepped up. Fadil helped both 4x800 teams to qualify for state and coached Ruggiero to a spot on the 4x400 state team to join sprinters Bertrand, Sampson, and Morris.

Evelyn Klein came into a much-needed assistant coach position, coaching the long and triple jumpers. She helped Campbell to qualify for state, along with getting Whitehead to within a quarter inch of a state spot in the triple jump.

The 2024 track and field season was filled with success stories, personal records, excellent team culture and bonding. All the graduating seniors will be missed, but it’s safe to say they’re passing the baton to a very capable next generation.