A Dash to the Finish

South Park junior Morgan Burnett (pictured in at top) makes her move during the Salida Invitational April. 7. The middle long distance sprinter is currently ranked in the top 18 of the class 2A Colorado State standings.

(Photo by Lori Slifka)

Making up 50 percent of the South Park girls track and field team, the Burnett sisters – Morgan and Jordan – rocked the Salida Invitational with 30 of their team’s 40 points by taking positions in the top eight in four events April 7.

“Salida is a great meet. We get to finally compete with teams that are closer to our size, which gives the kids a better idea of what they will see in those later meets of the season,” head coach Joe Wedow said.

The Salida Spartan event hosted a total of 17 point-earning female teams, where the Lady Burros placed eighth above Center, La Veta, Sangre de Cristo, Monte Vista, Custer County, Creede, Antonito, Lake County and Sierra Grande High Schools with the addition of a gold medal victory in the 800 Sprint Medley Relay.

“The Medley is looking great, so we will continue to work on conditioning, and if we can stay healthy, I foresee a continued improvement in that event,” Wedow said.

The relay team, consisting of seniors Sara Naylor and Caroline Carpenter running the 100 meter legs, then handing off to freshman Jordan Burnett for the 200 meter, and is wrapped up with junior Morgan Burnett closing with the last 400 meter stretch, excited South Park fans by shrinking their season opening time of 2:05.12.

They knocked seven seconds off to finish with an astonishing 1:58.16 and advanced to a fifth-place ranking within the class 2A Colorado State track and field standings.

“It is a complete team effort, and while each athlete is battling with (health) issues, each is coming along and pushing to improve,” Wedow said.

Killing the race course with an approximate four-second lead over their closest competitor (Alamosa High School), the South Park relay team took center stage over 10 teams in the contest and was awarded 10 points for their effort.

With half the season left on the schedule, the foursome is already creeping up on the South Park school record, which resides at 1:57.37, set at the Southern Peaks League Meet in 2012.

“They are less than a second from reaching the school record. The team has only run the event three times this season, but have improved each time since setting that initial benchmark at Center,” Wedow said.

Individual competition saw Jordan Burnett taking charge with back-to-back blue ribbon finishes in the 100 and 200 meter events for a total of 20 points on the day.

“Jordan is really trucking along and is a hard-working kid, which is shown with her great runs,” Wedow said.

At the outset, the freshman swept her rookie status under the rug and trounced a league of 59 sprinters in the 100 meters. Setting a personal-best record of 13.03, Jordan outran second-place finisher, Malyka Medina of Center High School, by a .48-second split and moved to a fourth-place seed within the state standings.

In addition, Burnett is sneaking up on the South Park school record of 12.97 held by Emma Naylor and set at the 2015 Colorado State Track and Field Championships.

Jordan continued to dominate the track as she excelled over 51 sprinters in the 200 meters. While crossing the finish line in a time of 27.32, Burnett was .28 seconds from reaching her season-best time of 27.04 (set at the Altitude Running Invitational Mar. 31), which has her currently ranked fourth in the state standings and a mere .35-second split from reaching the school record of 26.69, set by Kacey Buttrick at the 2015 Doherty Spartan Invitational.

“Jordan has a long-standing soccer background and is involved in several additional sports, such as basketball, volleyball, and dance. I feel that all of these activities have helped to build the tremendous athlete that she is. I have to give credit to all of her coaches that have contributed to her athleticism. She is a year-round athlete and all of her hard work is paying off,” Wedow said.

Upholding family tradition, older sister Morgan flew with double point-earning places and tallied 10 points overall.

“Morgan has battled with injury in past seasons, but knock on wood, she’s doing good this year and continues to turn in great times,” Wedow said.

Kicking off with a third-place finish out of 30 runners in the 400 meters, the junior set a season-best time of 1:04.85. Rewarded with six points toward the team total, Morgan also moved into the top 18 of the state standings.

“She continues to improve with each race and we’ve been able to see the most improvement of the Medley from Morgan’s 400 leg,” Wedow said.

In the middle distance events, M. Burnett then captured another four points with a fifth-place finish in the 800 meters. Stopping the clock in a time of 2:48.88, the junior outran sixth-place finisher, Camille Ruggles of Center, by .63 seconds, but missed her season-best time of 2:47.10 set at the Elbert High School Invitational March. 24.

“Morgan is another one that has additional activities outside of track, which is a factor in her being a strong athlete, but most importantly, she is a hard worker,” Wedow said.


Despite being left shorthanded, the South Park boys team managed to complete the day tied at 14th place with Lake City Community, holding five points overall.,and set 10 season-best records.

“A majority of the kids are still working hard, and while some of the current qualifications are secure, others need to improve to hold their status,” Wedow said.

Topping the totem with a sixth-place finish, the boys’ 4x800 meter relay clocked in at a time of 11:07.41 and took position behind Buena Vista High School.

Although the squad did not reach the season-best time of 10:45.86 set at the Elbert High School Invitational, they were able to earn three points toward the team total.

Senior Riley Elliot jumped in and earned the final two points for his team with a seventh-place finish in the high jump competition. Measuring a height of 5-4, Elliot out-jumped 23 athletes in the event.

While additional points could not be made, the team found success with Dillon Himes grabbing a season-best time of 12.51 and Michael Groome doing the same with a time of 15.38 in the 100 meter dash. Himes then returned to set a season-best time of 26.14 in the 200 meter dash.

Continuing to set the pattern, Michael Kelley neared the top eight places and finished ninth overall with a season-best time of 56.11 in the 400 meters, followed by teammate Caleb Lindberg with a time of 1:04.68.

Andrew Gardner pushed through in the distance events with a season-best time of 6:27.91 in the 1,600 meter run, and Himes and Elliot took to the horizontal jumps with season-best distances of 17-5.75 and 17-2.25, respectively, in the long jump.

The throwing events saw Seth Hermansen set a season-best distance of 32-1.25, followed by Gardner with a measurement of 23-0.75 in the shot put.

Next up

The South Park track and field team will compete in their next meet at the Pomona Invitational held in Lakewood Apr. 13-14.

“It is held at Jeffco Stadium, which is the same venue that the state championships take place. I wanted to give the kids a chance to get a feel for their surroundings prior to taking state on,” Wedow said.

“While we are about halfway through the season, we’re just going to have to go week-by-week from here on out and only have a few more tries to keep improvements happening.”

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