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Paonia boys post strong showing at district track

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Photo by Wayne Crick Paonia's Caden Meilner is pursued by Cedaredge's Caleb Williams during last Friday's 1600m run at the 1A/2A league meet in Grand Junction. Meilner was fourth (4:57.59) and Williams finished in fifth place with his time of 5:12.33.

As Paonia's top distance runner, junior Caden Meilner can run all out for more than three and a half miles in a single day. You might say he's driven.

"My parents are always motivating me to just do whatever I can and do it to the best of my abilities," said Meilner. After qualifying for state in the 3200-meter run as a freshman he missed qualifying last season by mere seconds.

This year he'll be running the event at state. At last week's 2A/1A Western Slope District track meet in Grand Junction Meilner took silver in the 3200 with a time of 10:47.94. His goal was to keep the winner, Austin Russell of Meeker, in his sight throughout the race. "I didn't want to lose him too much and let him get away from me," said Meilner. "I did an OK job ... up until the last one or two laps."

Meilner aims for a good placing, but his focus is in cutting his time down. With one more year of high school, he hopes to reset the 2012 school record of 10:06.84 held by Jason Sturgis. Factoring in the adrenaline, Meilner said he's looking forward to seeing what he can do at state.

Meilner also finished fourth in the 1600m with a time of 4:57.59, which was run on the hottest day of the year. The time is 13 seconds slower than his 2016 state time in the event. "Placing wasn't too bad, but could have gotten a little better time," he said.

Meilner also runs a leg of the 4x800m relay. He and teammates Eli Etter, Harley Ewert and Logan Green took silver in a season-best 8:59.43. "That's my favorite event," said Meilner. "We've got a really solid team." They started the year out with the goal of qualifying for state, but are now working to earn a place on the podium.

Meilner also ran with Gabe Ferguson, Jesse Burns and Logan Green on the 4x400, volunteering to run for an under-the-weather teammate. "I've just really wanted to push myself this season and see what I'm capable of, " he said. Doing three or four events helps translate toward a good state meet.

Freshman Kyle Long went from a season-best mark of 5 feet, 2 inches in the high jump to a fourth place with a jump of 5-9. The jump secured Long a berth at the state meet. It's his primary focus, said McRae. "Good day for him."

Warren Minerich took silver in the shot put with a mark of 45-00.50. In discus, Blake Benson took second with a throw of 131 feet, Cyrus Malek-Madani placed fourth with a throw of 124-08, and Minerich placed sixth with a mark of 122-06.

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