A Raider Track Story


The official team photo for the 2021 season.(@rangeviewtrackandfield on instagram)

Vivian Tran, Editor in Chief

March 12, 2020 started out as a typical school day. However, things rapidly went downhill and the start of this decline was marked by an announcement over Rangeview’s intercoms, saying that all sporting and after-school activities had been canceled. As the athletes sat in their classrooms wearing their warm up suits, the track and field team waited to hear that their meet was canceled as the list of games and events was being called out, but those words never came. 

The track meet, and only the track meet, was still on. Although the team is thankful for that singular opportunity, no one can deny the feelings of uncertainty and anxiety that filled the atmosphere. Everyone tried to find a balance between an optimistic attitude of hoping for the best, and a realistic attitude of understanding the severity of the circumstances. Then, after the first and last track meet of that season, the possibility that they fearfully anticipated became a reality: the season was canceled.

In regards to the virus, things certainly got worse before they got better. Sports were put on the back burner as it became the least of our worries. In an era of quarantine and virtual learning, health and safety were prioritized. 

The Return 

An entire year passed. Despite being away for so long, the Raiders hit the track again harder than ever in April of 2021, and this past season was littered with remarkable accomplishments that would’ve been

A list of awards given at the 2021 end-of-season banquet. (@rangeviewtrackandfield on instagram)

impressive, even without the obstacles formed by COVID. Despite these achievements, Coach Carhart says that the best part of the season was seeing the joy return to the student’s faces as they reconnected, “I felt a deeper meaning to what we were doing beyond simply trying to win another championship (but we did that too!),” continuing by describing the return of track as something that, “brought him back to life.”

The team protected their league title with both the JV and varsity teams winning the EMAC championship. In addition to this grand win, 57 All-Conference and 7 All-state honors were earned and Daryn Ofori-Kuragu was named the MVP of the league meet. 

Qualifying for the state championship is a notable achievement in itself, and this past season 20 students were able to compete. The meet was spread out over three days at the end of June and was filled with impressive performances from Raiders. Among them was Grace Solarin who placed 9th in shot put, 400m dash finalist Avani Houston, 110m hurdle finalist Zak Nfaoui, and shotput finalist Julian Bridges. 

(From left to right) Ismael Dembele. Bryce McCutcheon, James Holland, and Daryn Ofori-Kuragu hold up the number 1 after snagging the win in the 4×400 at state championships. (Courtney Oakes at the Aurora Sentinel)

State Champions

The most astounding performance came from the boys 4×400 relay team consisting of Ismael Dembele, James Holland, Bryce McCutcheon, Daryn Ofori-Kuragu, and alternate Michael Bufmack. The boys qualified for the finals with a 3 second PR, placing 3rd in the preliminaries. However, when the finals came around the next day, the boys hit another PR, taking 1st place and becoming the state champions for the 4×400 relay.

The victory high felt by the team after such an amazing feat was quite a contrast to the discouragement of the last year. 

“When we came into the season personally I had really low expectations. We were still quarantined and you can feel the low morale of the team at the start of the season,” says Kuragu. “As a collective team we became stronger, we all improved and eventually won leagues and the state 4×400 title.”

Rangeview even went a step beyond the highly competitive state meet when Ismael Dembele qualified for the Outdoor Nationals presented by Nike at Hayward Field in Oregon. Although Dembele missed graduation in Aurora, he jumped an impressive 44-1.5 feet in the triple jump to make up for it.

Ismael Dembele sports his cap and gown at the Hayward Field in Oregon with Coach Castellano. (@rangeviewtrackandfield on instagram)



Unexpected News

After a stupendous season, the Raider track team received some unexpected news: Coach Carhart was leaving. The initial reaction from the team was one that you would expect: a rollercoaster of sadness, rage, and more sadness. 

The love that the team has for Carhart is undeniable. Team numbers skyrocketed upon Carhart’s arrival in 2016, taking Rangeview track back to heights unseen since the 1992 state title, nearing 200 athletes. He is admired and adored by anyone who has the pleasure of meeting him and is a role model to more people than he knows. Despite this initial disappointment, the team is happy for Coach Carhart who left his position at Rangeview for good reason.

Carhart is now the head coach at  Eaglecrest. This was a wonderful opportunity for him, yet the decision didn’t come easy. When asked about what he misses most about Rangeview, Carhart had an immediate answer, “The incredible kids who roam those hallways and athletic fields. Their passion, humor, and love for each other and their school drove me to give everything I had each day I was there. I miss them immensely.”

Coach Carhart shows off his signature smile at a track meet. (Courtney Oakes at the Sentinel)

Although the team definitely reciprocates this feeling, Carhart was leaving the remarkable program he had built up over the past few years in the hands of someone trustworthy.

New head coach Martin Wittmer has worked at Gateway for the past 8 years but is familiar with the Rangeview track team. Watching them as an outsider all these years, Wittmer was constantly impressed by what he saw and knew what he was walking into upon accepting the position of the new Rangeview head track coach.

 “I was incredibly honored when the opportunity presented itself to teach and coach at Rangeview. It was a State-winning Rangeview 4×400 that first inspired my interest in moving to Aurora… Coach Carhart has also been one of my coaching mentors for the last few years so the opportunity to take over a program he built is a dream.”


A Warm Welcome

Wittmer certainly isn’t a novice when it comes to the great sport of track and field. He has been involved in club track since the age of eight, and has been competing and coaching since then. He’s done distance, sprinting, jumping, and hurdles along the way, and at Rocky Mountain High School, he placed at the 5A state meet in the 300 hurdles, 4X100, and 4×400 relays. Wittmer went on to compete as a Division 1 athlete for four years at the University of Northern Colorado, mostly as a 400 m hurdler. 

Despite such an impressive record, Wittmer isn’t solely defined by track, “While coaching has always been a major part of my career, I always will be a teacher first. This year I’m teaching World Geography, Ancient World History, and a Sports Specific Strength and Conditioning class for members of the track team.”

The leaving of Coach Carhart wasn’t the only change made to the coaching staff, an integral part of the team, distance coach Vince Castellano was retiring. Although the team will miss his harsh yet encouraging words, strong emotions, and his aggressively effective pep talks, everyone can agree that he deserves this hard-earned rest.

Coach Wittmer introduces himself at a meeting held for Rangeview track athletes and their families. (Vivian Tran)

The team has welcomed Coach Wittmer with open arms and is excited for the new, yet great things to come. “Obviously, with Coach Carhart leaving after the season the team was devastated, but with the new addition of Coach Wittmer, the transition has been smooth. The overall change has been good,” states Kuragu. 

Wittmer has certainly enjoyed being a Raider thus far, and his feelings can be described by two words: pure excitement. Wittmer notes that he’s excited to be immersed in the culture of Rangeview, to get to know the community, to teach new classes, and for the new season. 

“As far as the season goes, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to coach such a talented and respectful group of student-athletes. I fully expect our team to be competitive statewide, and my coaching staff and I will do everything within our power to help our student-athletes develop, perform, and enjoy being part of the team,” said Wittmer, “Most of all, I’m excited to learn from my students and student-athletes. Teaching and coaching are defined by collaborative learning, and I’m really looking forward to what we are able to accomplish together.”


Final Remarks

Although the upcoming season will be a new experience for both the coaches and athletes, everyone should rest confidently knowing that the team is working hard to fulfill and surpass all the grand expectations placed upon them. 

To Coach Carhart, thank you for all you’ve done for our team. We promise to continue to strengthen the foundation you’ve built for us, to love each other, work hard, and have fun. We’re all incredibly proud of you for taking on this new opportunity, but even if we’re on different sides now, you can be sure we’ll see you again at the state meet. 

To Coach Wittmer, welcome to the team! We’re thrilled to work alongside you during the upcoming season and thank you for joining our track family.

To the rest of the team, Carhart had a final message, “All of the success that we had was a reflection of the young women and men on those teams, not the coach. It is within all of you to continue on the path that we set, you just have to remain as a family through it all, push each other every day so you can all rise together, trust your new coaches, and remember it’s always a GREAT DAY TO BE A RAIDER!!!” 


We’ll see you at state, Carhart.