LAKEWOOD — Maura O’Brien barely had time to look at the runners in front of her because of the ones nipping at her heels. But maybe that was a good thing.
The Evergreen sophomore credit’s the persistent pressure that Moffat County’s Maddy Jourgensen and company were applying as to why she finished third in the girls 3,200 meters on May 21 — the second of three straight days at the 3A state track and field championships at Jefferson County Stadium.
“It was pretty tough because I had girls behind me the whole time, which is something that really helped me push through because I don’t feel if those girls weren’t there I could’ve got the time I wanted,” said O’Brien, who finished in a school record 11 minutes, 20.28 seconds. “I was really happy.”
Thompson Valley’s Becky Schmitt won the race in 11:07.19 and Nicki DeSouchet of Alamosa was second in 11:13.01. O’Brien never had much chance of catching either of them, but she never wavered when her spot was being contested by Jourgensen, Rock Canyon’s Alexandra Will and Pueblo West’s Anna Marshall -- all of whom finished less than 1.6 seconds behind the lanky Evergreen distance runner.
“I was trying to run my race. You can be boxed in or get out too fast,” O’Brien said. Teammate Bryn Haebe took 13th in the 18-runner field. “I was in third the whole race with people right on my back. I knew what I had to do.”
It was one of two medals Evergreen’s girls team, which scored 14 points to place 25th out of 45 schools that scored in the 4A field, earned. The other, also a third-place finish, came in the 4x800 relay. The squad, consisting of O’Brien, Haebe, Tayler Warren and Erin Dobey, entered the meet as the top seed. And it held that spot briefly in the final 800 meters before perennial powers Mullen and Thompson Valley chased down Warren on the last leg.
Warren could tell the competition was closing in, but she didn’t know they were about to pounce.
“I could hear people screaming, but I didn’t know she was that close,” said Warren, who earned the team’s only other Top-10 finish by running a 2:20.70 in the 800 to miss out on a medal by a little more than a second.
It probably didn’t help during the relay that Warren’s legs started cramping up on the first of her two laps around the Jeffco Stadium track. That was the opening Mullen and Thompson Valley needed en route to finishing in the top three of the team competition, which was won by Windsor with 59 points.
Nevertheless, the relay team’s third-place finish was good enough, for the second time in as many weeks, to shatter the school mark. Their run of 9:31.99 beat the previous mark, set at the Jeffco league meet, by more than 10 seconds.
The only other finishes for Evergreen were O’Brien’s 13th-place finish in the 800 and the 4x400 relay team took 14th.