Air Academy senior runs down Harrison freshman in thrilling 400-meter dash

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Photo - Air Academy's Nik Chappee, right, edges out Harrison's Tyrese Van Horn to win the 4A Boys 400 meter dash Sunday, May 21, 2017, during the Colorado High School State Track and Field Championships at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood, Colo. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Air Academy's Nik Chappee, right, edges out Harrison's Tyrese Van Horn to win the 4A Boys 400 meter dash Sunday, May 21, 2017, during the Colorado High School State Track and Field Championships at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood, Colo. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

LAKEWOOD – Air Academy’s Nik Chappee probably would have edged Harrison’s Tyrese Van Horne without a forward lean at the finish line, but that’s kind of his thing.

“That’s something I have a tendency to do is get people on the lean,” Chappee said after a showstopping victory in the 4A 400-meter dash at the Colorado high school track and field championships. “It makes it entertaining for everyone.

“I try to put on a good show for people.”

From start to finish, this race was indeed an exquisite show – particularly for Pikes Peak-area runners.

It started with Vista Ridge’s Isaiah Lapioli sprinting to a lead of several yards at the 150-yard mark. Lapioli, who would finish fourth and gain six points for the state champions, figured he had nothing to lose.

All season, Lapioli felt he didn’t start strong enough in the event and yet he still felt himself fading at the end. Here at state, he figured if the late fade was inevitable anyhow, he might as well try to get his money’s worth early.

“My plan was to come out strong and just finish with whatever I have left,” Lapioli said. “I did what I had to. I just wanted to end up on the podium and earn points for my team.”

He did, emptying the tank at 48.77 seconds at Jeffco Stadium on Sunday. It was nearly half a second faster than his previous top time this season.

Lapioli’s lead was surrendered on the turn heading into the home stretch, as Van Horne shot to the front of the pack.

The Harrison freshman arrived in Colorado Springs at the age of 10 from Jamaica after his father, who had done work with hotels in the area, decided his children would have a shot at a better education in the United States.

Van Horne said his lungs took a while to adapt to the thin air, and he still despises the cold, but he quickly turned himself into a quality runner who focused on track.

That focus had him mere yards from a state title in his first 400 – to go with a pair of top-five finishes in relays.

But he could tell the taller Chappee was closing fast and had longer strides.

“I tried to lift up my feet and I tried to push through,” Van Horne said in a thick accent. “I just lost.”

He didn’t lose to just anyone. Chappee entered the event with the top qualifying time. On Saturday he had claimed first in the 200.

And on the final stretch in his last high school race, Chappee confidently relied on the work he had put into this moment.

“I pushed myself a lot more for the last 150,” he said. “In the end, it’s just whatever training you have – it shows whether or not it worked with you.

“I needed to finish on a good note.”

Chappee leaned forward and won in 47.90, with Van Horne then taking a spill after finishing five-thousandths of a second behind him.

“I’ve never been that fast,” Van Horne said, explaining why he lost his balance.

Van Horne said he would watch film of the race with his coach and see what lessons he could take for future events. The freshman was run down by the senior this time, but he hopes he won't always be on the wrong side of those exchanges.