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“These children run for each other”

LAKEWOOD — The official Niwot Track Team slogan this season was printed in capital letters on the back of their warm-up jerseys during the CHSAA State Championships.


Colorado’s most dominant women’s track and field program is very grateful. Niwot won his third consecutive Class 4A tag team title at Jeffco Stadium by a huge margin – 170 to 61 – over second-placed Mullen. The Cougars, led by their dominant distance team, couldn’t be touched.

“The girls are quite special,” said longtime Niwot head coach Maurice Henriques. “These kids run for each other.”

Niwot laid the groundwork for his championship in the very first event, the 100-meter hurdles, on a freezing Sunday morning. Cougars junior Kimora Northrup finished second in the race last season and was the second seed to appear in this year’s Finals. She broke through with a first-place time of 14.66 seconds.

“I cried when I crossed the finish line. I had a really tough season,” said Northrup, who has struggled with bouts of colds and flu throughout the year. “I let all my emotions out of the blocks and it carried me through the race. It’s really good to win. »

Niwot’s seven remaining championship performances from the long weekend – 4×400, 4×800, sprint medley, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters – were more predictable.

Senior Eva Klingbeil, committed to running for North Carolina, won the titles in the 1,600 meter (4:49.66) and 3,200 meter (10:29.62) races. Her teammate, junior Madison Shults, swept the 400 meters (56.05) and 800 meters (2:08.33) meets. Additional Niwot runners made the podium in all four events.

“We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” Klingbeil said. “We are really just here to try to score as many points for the team.”

Shults added: “I was ecstatic. It’s great to know that all my girls are next to me. Everyone I train with every day. They are like my family.

An eternal bond shared between the Niwot girls is no accident. It’s all part of a strong team culture established over many years under Henriques, a former CU football player in the 1990s for legendary Buffs head coach Bill McCartney. He is considered one of the many mentors who shaped Henriques’ coaching style.

“One of the best things we do every year is our Green Chair ceremony,” Henriques said. “In the last week before the state, we picked up our seniors and pulled out a green chair. Then all the children can talk about their importance. Then (the seniors) have the last word. … There are a lot of tears. Coaches cry. For me, that’s what’s most important. »

The Niwot girls will quickly turn the page in pursuit of their next goal – a fourth straight state championship in 2023. Maintaining a Colorado track dynasty requires an extreme work ethic that has become part of the Cougars’ racing DNA. .

“We will be back at work on Monday,” Henriques said. “That’s what people don’t realize. You see the end result. But it’s the kids and the coaches who give a lot of time. When you spend so much time on it, you’re not surprised at the results.