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Soroco's Kelley breaks 2A meet record in 800, wins state title

Austin Colbert

— Soroco High School sophomore Ben Kelley expected the worst. He knew how good Lyons runner Paul Roberts is and thought he'd see his dreams shattered at the finish line.

Only when Kelley crossed the finish line of Friday's Class 2A 800-meter race at the state track and field meet in Lakewood's Jefferson County Stadium, he was in a world of his own.

"I had no idea how far he was behind, so that last 100 (meters) I just went all out," Kelley said moments after the race. "I thought he was going to catch me. I was so afraid I was going to get passed at the very end and lose it. But I crossed that finish line and realized I was first, and it was amazing. A whole season of work going into that."

Kelley won 2A's state title in the 800-meter race with a school record time of one minute, 55.61 seconds, well ahead of Roberts' 1:58.08. Kelley's blazing time will be in more than just Soroco's record book; it also broke the 2A state meet record, held since 2002 by De Beque's Cory Kline (1:56.13).

Kelley took seventh in the 800-meter race as a freshman in 2:02.31. He is the first individual state champion for the Rams since 2010.

"I've told him since he was in junior high he was going to be really special. And I told his parents that," Soroco track coach David Bruner said. "Ben, when he took off, you could tell his legs were a lot fresher. He was ready to go. He had plenty of oxygen. He was coming down the stretch hard."

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Kelley's title run was more than chance. One of 2A's best cross country runners, Kelley did not compete in the 3,200-meter race at state in order to focus on the 800 and mile, which will be raced Saturday.

Roberts, on the other hand, competed in the 3,200-meter race — in which he broke the 2A meet record in 9:26.17 — earlier that morning. He had also competed in a relay race that day, making the 800 his third event Friday.

All this played perfectly into Bruner's plan.

"If we would have ran the two mile, we probably couldn't have beat him in the eight," Bruner said. "The first lap, we knew we needed to get out in the first 100. He did, and we knew Roberts would come up behind him. We had talked — if he went past, just stay right with him. And then see what he has left at about 250."

Kelley, who entered the race seeded fourth, took the lead out of the first turn and held it until Roberts passed him early in the second lap. Kelley stayed with Roberts step for step until the final turn, when Kelley's obviously fresher legs led to a decisive victory.

Roberts was the first to congratulate Kelley after the race.

"It's a real honor, especially as a sophomore, knowing that I have the record for 2A now," Kelley said. "It was a lot of hard work this season, and I couldn't have done it without my team, without my family, without the whole community supporting me. It's just been an amazing season. It's an amazing experience."

Roberts, a senior committed to compete at Colorado State University-Pueblo next season, will get a chance at redemption Saturday, the final day of the state meet. He is seeded first in the 4:15 p.m., 1,600-meter race, while Kelley enters as the No. 2 seed, a good nine seconds behind Roberts.

Roberts' seed time of 4:17.35 is faster than the current 2A state meet record, set by Center's Aucencio Martinez in 2002 (4:21.35). Bruner thinks that record will fall Saturday.

"Roberts is probably a little bit more concerned now than he was before," Bruner said, with a laugh, about Saturday's mile race. "It will be a fun race. I'm pretty sure the state record will probably be broken that race. That's what you got to have to break those state records: You have to have people that are going with you. That's what's impressive about Roberts is that two-mile record he broke with no one around him. Shows how good a kid he is."

Kelley finished sixth at state in the mile as a freshman in 4:38.00. Roberts is the defending 2A mile champ, winning last year's race in 4:21.78.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

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