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Paonia girls coast to 2nd

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Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia junior Brooke Hillman is among several members of the Paonia girls track team who is qualified for state in both individual and relay events. Paonia is the four-time defending state 2A champions.

While some athletes were hoping for one last chance to hit that state-qualifying height, distance or time last Saturday at the Cedaredge Bruin Invitational track meet, Brian Mitchem's girls team, for the most part, took it easy. Their relay teams are already sitting comfortably in top-18 rankings and were mostly working on handoffs. "Other than that it's a pretty laid-back day today," said Mitchem, whose girls team has won the state 2A track title the past four years.

The girls still scored 152 points to place second behind Montrose. Sophia Anderson, Emily Pieper and Emily Miller finished 1-2-5 in the 100-meter dash. In long jump, Brianna Van Vleet, Pieper and McKenna Palmer finished 1-2-4 (Van Vleet's 2016 meet record of 18-04 still stands).

Anderson won the triple jump at 35-11.25, and freshman Lyla Hayutin-Baril finished fourth. Palmer blew away her former personal-best mark by more than two feet with a third-place triple jump of 33 feet, 11.5 inches, and took silver in the 100m hurdles.

Katya Schwieterman placed first in the 3200m run with a time of 14:05.66

Junior Brooke Hillman placed sixth in the 200m dash with a time of 28.99. Hillman started out as a mid-distance runner and has shifted the past two seasons to sprints.

"This year coach decided to put me in four-by-two," said Hillman. She ran a good split and Mitchem started placing her in more short races. As a result, she stopped running the 1600m. "Not for me anymore," said Hillman, who placed seventh at state in the event as a freshman.

Now she's running more 400s -- she placed sixth in 400m at Cedaredge -- and is trying out more shorter distances. Saturday's 200m race was her first.

Hillman will still run the 800m, which she won at the league meet on May 6, and where she's ranked third in state. "I like the 800," said Hillman, who placed third at state as a freshman and sixth as a sophomore. "That's my favorite."

Hillman will also run on the 4x100m and 4x400m relays and anchors the 4x800 relay team that is ranked second heading into state competition.

In other individual events, in the 400m, Brianna Van Vleet placed third. Randi Rapke took third in the 800m run with a time of 2:32.98. McKenna Johnson placed fourth in 300 hurdles with a time of 52.14.

Four Paonia seniors are qualified for state in multiple events. Anderson qualified in four individual events, and will compete in the 100m, 200m, where she's ranked third and second, respectively, and in triple jump, said Mitchem.

Pieper is qualified in the 100m, 200m and long jump and runs on the 4x200m relay.

Van Vleet is qualified in five individual events. Mitchem said she will compete in the long jump, where she holds the state 2A record, and 400m dash, and run on two sprint relays.

Palmer will compete in 100m hurdles, long jump and triple jump, and Sabrina Leighton will represent the throwers in the shot put.

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