Mission #1, should you choose to accept it: Roust yourself from blissful sleep and a warm bed before the sun rises on a chilly Saturday morning to ride a school bus (though you will be with one of the kindest, coolest school bus drivers on planet Earth, thank you, Mr. Grove) to a facility with fifteen other local track teams, all but three having at least five times your school enrollment (and ranging up to nearly ten times larger in the case of Fairview and Boulder) with many of those schools
ranked in the top 10 in the state in their respective 4A and 5A classifications (Lyons being one of three 2A schools in the meet), and do battle for eight hours over hurdle, track, field, bar and sand.
"For what purpose?" you ask. Why, so some of you can hopefully bring home a few brightly colored pieces of ribbon or a medal, and, should the day go especially well, a couple of decorated pieces of wood with figurines of a runner and a little plaque bearing the names of previous schools who have claimed these "traveling trophies" named after one of the meet co-founders who helped bring this event into existence 42 years ago.
On Saturday, April 14, the Lyons Lions High School track team accepted the invitation to attend the 42nd annual Boulder County “Lonnie Nixon” Track & Field Championships at Centaurus High School in Lafayette. The venue was a beautifully refurbished track, and along with the other fifteen schools from the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts, Lyons eagerly awaited this mid-season test against some of the best competition in the state, and with nationally ranked athletes in the distance and vertical jumping events. This event has long been one of the most prestigious track meets on the Colorado high school spring calendar, and this year's rendition did not disappoint. From a meet record of sixteen feet in the boys' pole vault, to another young man's record-tying 800 time of 1:53.97, to a young woman running an 800 in 2:12.32, just missing the meet record by two tenths of a second, there were many inspiring performance.
Your Lions entered the meet ranked in the top three of the 2A school classification for both the boys and the girls, and they knew this would be an excellent test of their mid-season fitness with the state meet only five weeks away. The girls responded with twenty-five season-best performances, and the boys, not to be outdone, had twenty-seven season-best performances of their own. An additional goal for the boys and girls teams centered around the Bob Charles Trophy, an award named after one of the meet's co-founders, and given to the team who, based on school population, scores the most points in comparison to their school size. The Lyons boys have claimed this trophy for the last seventeen years in a row, and the girls have etched their name on the plaque sixteen out of the last eighteen years. One, the most recent intrusions on the girls' list in 2015, involved the juggernaut Niwot girls' team, whose team victory this year with 170 points meant the Lady Lions needed to score at least 33 points to claim the trophy. The local girls were up to the challenge with a 35-point tally at day's end. The boys nearly matched the girls with 31 points, and they had a comfortable margin of victory in the adjusted scoring over the Mead boys, who claimed their first team championship with 97 points. Final adjusted scores: Lyons girls - 343.4 to Niwot's 314.5; and Lyons boys - 304.1 to Mead's 194.
"How did that happen?" you ask. On the girls' side, senior Ixchel Leeuwenburgh led the way with her third place finishes in the shot put and discus, her sixth place finish in the high jump, an event she began practicing the week of the meet, and her leg on the seventh place 1600 meter relay team, along with sophomore teammates Charlotte Rogers, Alexa Karsel, and Hanna Paton. Ixchel returned as the defending meet champion in the discus, and while she did throw a season best, the top three places were separated by just 7 inches with Ixchel coming out on the short end of the group. Nevertheless, her 15.5 points provided the foundation the rest of the team needed to accumulate their final total. Charlotte Rogers had an excellent day with eighth place finishes in both hurdle events (and her 300 hurdle time of 49.0 was a personal best, and has her in fourth place in the 2A rankings) to go along with a leg on the fifth place 400-relay team with senior Hana Fankhouser, sophomore Emily VanLeeuwen, and Hanna Paton, and her leg on the aforementioned 1600 relay. Senior Bianca Mesagno claimed an eighth place in the triple jump with her 33' 8" leap, and is currently ranked third in 2A. Juniors Logan Kuskie and Kylen Christiansen contributed five points each with their fourth place finishes in the pole vault and discus respectively (and Logan leads the 2A rankings in the vault), while the 800-relay team of Hana Fankhouser, Hannah Paton, Emily VanLeeuwen, and late-substitute Monica Luttrell placed eighth.
For the boys, the four relays all placed, and scored a total of fourteen points to set the tone for the day. In the 400 relay, freshman Aidan Christiansen, sophomore Jackson Reeves, junior Tristan Chavez and senior Nate Christy ran a season-best time of 45.53 for fifth place. The 800 relay team of senior Nathan Radich, Jackson Reeves, junior Andrew Booth, and senior Ethan Burton ran a season best of 1:34.1 to finish fourth. The 1600 relay team of Nathan Radich, junior Colton Jonjak-Plahn, sophomore Isaac Roberts, and Ethan Burton were seventh, and the 3200 relay team of Isaac Roberts, senior Adam Crowl, Colton Jonjak-Plahn, and sophomore Jordan Shackelford ran to a sixth place season-best time of 8:37.63. All four boys' relays are currently ranked in the top three in the 2A classification. Andrew Booth, a junior and a newcomer to the track team this year, contributed eighth-place finishes in the long jump and triple jump; Nathan Radich added an eighth place finish in the 300 hurdles; Nate Christy finished fifth in the 110 hurdles; and Isaac Roberts joined his two older brothers, Andrew and Paul, as a Boulder County champion in the 3200 meter run with his first place finish in 9:50.25, just three seconds away from the tenth place time on the all-time list for the meet. Nate Christy was also the male recipient of the Monte Sutak memorial scholarship, one of ten scholarships funded by meet co-founder Lonnie Nixon.
For what purpose? Let's return to our second paragraph and acknowledge that if this was just about a few pieces of ribbon, metal and wood, it would all seem a rather foolish endeavor. However, if you've had the privilege of being around this group of young people, seen them leaning over trash cans or lying prone on the ground at the end of a hard workout or race, watched them process a disappointing effort with grace and growing maturity, observed them juggling and prioritizing their school obligations, homework, clubs, work, and friendships, been present while they worked a middle school track meet for three hours and kindly helped every member of every team with encouragement and patience, witnessed the love and empathy they have for one another, and watched them voluntarily return day after day to be part of the shared hard work required to be a member of this team, dare I say, this family, then you know the answer to the original question.