When the Summit Daily first caught up with Ridge Strickler at the start of the season (back in March), the prospect of qualifying for the Colorado State 4A Track and Field Meet wasn't quite yet on his radar.
Despite battling illness at the start of the season, Strickler has surpassed all expectations this spring, and the SHS senior heads down to JeffCo Stadium in Lakewood to compete in the 400 meter sprint at the state track meet today.
"I thought qualifying for states would be insane - super hard to get into," Strickler said. "I'm happy to get into it, but I'm hoping to compete, as well. I'm not finished just because I got in."
Strickler, who repeatedly broke several school records this season, said he has a few butterflies, but that's how he knows he's ready.
"It'll be completely new for me. I never ran with any of these kids, and they never ran with me," Strickler said. "I'm just trying to go over in my head how a 400 should look and feel."
Strickler is hoping to advance into the finals, which will be on Saturday and is comprised by the top three finishers from two nine-person heats, plus the next three fastest times. Strickler also suspects he will be in better shape than most races, because he won't be worn out by running several other events. His focus is on the 400 - and the 400 alone.
"At leagues, I had to run the 100 and then try to figure out how to get my body back ready for the 400. It'll be a little different for me - a little bigger warm-up - but I think it'll definitely be beneficial," Strickler said.
For SHS sprint coach Fred Koetteritz, it has been a pleasure working with Strickler this season.
"He's been a real leader amongst all the sprinters. It's a real solid group of kids, who have supported him, as well," Koetteritz said.
None of the coaches can recollect the last time Summit sent a sprinter to states. In fact, they're skeptical whether or not it's ever happened before - although the school did send a high jumper and a relay team in recent memory.
"(Strickler) comes with a lot of natural talent, but his work ethic really pushed it to the next level," Koetteritz said. "He's definitely peaking now. He kind of tapered his workouts and his strength and fitness peaked a couple weeks ago. So we're at a maintenance level right now. He's had to run a lot of races for us, so this is a great opportunity for him to concentrate on one event."
Strickler has his sites set on attending Boise State next year. He's planning to contact the track coach and expects to pursue a spot on the team as a walk-on.