La Junta boys track and field's Zeke Rangel, Stone Mata dominate boys weight events in opener

Ken Hamrick
LA Junta Tribune
La Junta High School's Zeke Rangel tosses the shot at the Ray Headley Invitational in Swink on Friday. Rangel won not only this event, but the discus as well.

The La Junta High School track and field teams got off to a good start to the 2021 season, especially its top two boys weight men, Zeke Rangel and Stone Mata, at the Ray Headley Invitational Friday at Swink High School's Gene Brown Field.

"They both performed more than I could ever imagine," LJ coach Bill Remick said. "Especially through their practicing and stuff. I never imagined they would hit what they did, so I'm proud of them."

Rangel swept to victory in both the discus and the shot put. He had a mark of 119-feet, 5-inches in the discus and he threw the shot 45 feet and 6 1/2 inches.

"It feels really good right now," Rangel said. "I'm happy with how I produced, but I definitely want to try and grow and better myself in the season."

Mata was second in the discus with a 115-foot, 7-inch throw. He took third in the shot put at 41 feet, 4 1/2 inches.

Mata said that there is a friendly competition between him and Rangel.

"It's great to have friendly competition and be able to watch each other and keep improving throughout the season," Mata said. "Hopefully at Tiger Relays, we'll be able to put up the same results if not better."

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Rangel has completed a long journey with having to deal with situations concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. First he and the rest of the Tigers had to miss last year's track season and that carried over into football where La Junta had to play a truncated season.

"It was definitely a difficult experience trying to go all through these new events and everything," Rangel said.

Not only did Mata miss last year's track season, he did not play football this past fall.

"I didn't play this year due to COVID," Mata said. "I wasn't sure how the season was going to pan out. It was a bummer to miss track and to see the last graduating class not being able to not experience their last year."

La Junta High School's Stone Mata lets the discus fly at the Ray Headley Invitational in Swink on Friday. Mata was second in the discus and third in the shot put.

"It was difficult not only for them, but for some of their teammates who never got to perform at state to the level we knew they could," Remick said. "We had a couple of possible state champions that could have been but didn't happen. These guys were right there with them. So it was a tough year for them, but here they're coming on strong."

Rangel is looking to qualify for the Class 3A state meet in both events this year.

"I would like to at least place at state is definitely the goal," Rangel said. "Winning is definitely out there. I still have to grow a lot on my throws if I want to make it there."

The next competition for the Tigers will be the Tiger Relays. Last year was the first time in which the Relays were canceled because of COVID-19.

"Right now, I believe we have 16 teams," Remick said. "We'll see what happens. It kind of looks like things are back to normal."

This will be the 72nd boys meet which began in 1949, and the 46th girls meet which started in 1975.

Tribune-Democrat reporter Ken Hamrick can be reached by email atKHamrick1@gannett.com. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.