LAKEWOOD — The only time Madison Shults lagged behind anyone on the track Friday was when she was last to the podium to collect her medal.

Otherwise, nobody could finish in front of the Niwot High School 800-meter runner at Jefferson County Stadium.

Shults won back-to-back titles in the Class 4A girls 800 and clocked in at 2 minutes, 08.90 seconds.

Shults’ time fell .61 seconds shy of the state record — which is 2:08.29 and held by Shults’ former teammate Taylor James, who will be teammates at Stanford next season.

Shults said the 2022 finals prepped her for this year’s run.

“Last year I was used to not winning, which was refreshing and pulled me back to earth,” Shults said. “This year I knew I was ready because earlier this season, I ran a lifetime best of 2:04. I knew I was ready for state and I knew I was ready to get going.”

Shults held a slim lead after her first 400. Shults’ opened with a 1:03.67 with teammate Olivia Alessandrini nearly mirroring her at 1:03.90.

Silver Creek’s Grace Moroney kept tabs on both Niwot runners and had a split of 1:04.17.

Teammate Mia Prok (1:04.80), Julia Randolph (1:04.98) also remained in the fray to midway through the race.

After that first lap, Shults remained poised and found an extra gear to peel off from her competitors.

“[After the first lap] I always try to accelerate a little more,” Shults said. “Then I try to keep calm and remind myself I’m feeling good, doing well and I’m where I need to be.”

Shults built small separation on the final 200 while the field attempted to match her pace.

But the Niwot senior peeled away from Alessandrini in the final 50 meters of the race and maintained enough energy to flex for photographers after her run.

Shults’ finished marked the fifth consecutive 800 title for a Niwot girl. The last time the Cougars failed to win the 800 was 2017, when no Niwot girl qualified for the event.

Since then, they’ve had five consecutive champs. State track and field did not occur in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Outside of Shults, four other Niwot runners placed in the top nine.

Alessandrini finished second (2:10.79), Mia Prok placed fifth (2:14.83), Anna Prok earned sixth (2:15.32) and Julia Randolph was seventh (2:15.49.)

“It’s incredible,” Shults said. “I love the team atmosphere here. It’s so nice to know that I have all of my friends around me rather than competitors. Even though we are competing, I know all of my best friends are around me for this entire journey.”

(Marcus Hill)