Why Valor’s Cole Sprout is going the distance for the 5A record books

The dang thing’s the same age as Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys now, give or take a lap.

The Colorado boys’ prep state track record in the 1600 meter run just turned 38. And, more to the point, the ogre shows no signs of slowing down as it pushes 40: The 4:10.98 time posted in 1981 by Rich Martinez of Widefield is now the second-oldest boys state mark for all classifications still left on the books, trailing only Victor White’s stranglehold on the triple jump from 1973.

“That was an incredible record, 38 years old,” chuckled Valor Christian junior Cole Sprout, one of the best distance teens in the country and the latest contender to line up for a swing at the champ.

“So to go sub-4:10.9 would be pretty incredible. It would mean a lot. We’ll see what I have left in the tank.”

The kid looked slightly gassed late Friday afternoon at Jeffco Stadium, having romped to the Class 5A state crown in the 3200 (9:11.84) in the morning but finishing fifth in the 800 (1:55.85) a few hours later. Valor coach Brian Kula said Sprout ran the latter more as a favor — to help the Eagles in the 5A team points race — than with any personal bests in mind.

“Cole’s a team player,” Kula noted. “Obviously, (he’s) extremely talented. Coming into (state), we had a goal of trying to win a team championship as well, and that meant, with only seven guys, we were going to need everybody to kind of carry a little bit of the load.”

Sprout’s bid at a distance triple — state titles in the 3200, 1600 and 800 — fell short when he’d failed to separate from the pack, finishing more than two seconds behind state champion David Cardenas of Grand Junction Central (1:53.47).

“(The 800) is not really my thing in the first place,” shrugged Sprout, the favorite for Saturday’s Class 5A 1600 final and the leading contender to topple Martinez’s standard. “But it’s fun to shake things up a bit.”

He’s had a heck of a lot of fun lately. On April 21 at this same track, the Valor junior became the first prep Colorado runner to ever post a sub 9-minute time in the 3200 with an 8:57.15 at the Dakota Ridge Invitational. And that wasn’t even Sprout’s most impressive time of the year, let alone the month: The Eagles’ distance ace posted a state-record 8:40.73 in the 3200 at the prestigious Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational on April, a race in which he was narrowly pipped by Nico Young’s 8:40-flat.

“It was pretty awesome, I didn’t really expect to go that fast,” Sprout said of his state mark. “It’s been a really, really good season so far, staying healthy and everything.”

Everything was working Thursday morning as Sprout built up a healthy cushion in the Class 5A 3200 championship and cruised at the end, besting Dakota Ridge’s Austin Vancil by more than six seconds, 9:11.84 to 9:17.07.  Sprout still topped his state-winning time in the Class 4A 3200 championship last spring (9:22.10) by more than 10 seconds and change.

According to MileSplit.com, Sprout holds a prep personal best of 4:07.20 in the outdoor 1600. That’s not just within shouting distance of Martinez — that’s passing him.

“(Cole) is jacked up,” Kula said. “He locked in, trying to do something special in the 1600.”

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