LAKEWOOD — The day after the 2021 state meet ended — after Ben Kirk finished last in his preliminary heat in the 100 meters and third-to-last in the preliminaries in the 200 — Kirk was back on the track, working.

Kirk knew he was better than what he showed last year, and proved it Sunday at Jeffco Stadium. The Denver East senior won the 100-meter title with a time of 10.94, then ran 21.43 in the 200 to cement himself as Class 5A’s top sprinter.

“(Last year) was just all fuel to the fire,” Kirk said. “I didn’t want to be there again, losing in the prelims, and I worked in the offseason knowing that I can be up there with the best kids in the state.”

The UCLA commit said he had “the best start of my life” in the 100 as he edged Grandview’s David Maldonado and Chatfield’s Hayden Marx, both of whom ran 11-flat.

“It’s all in the start for me, and that’s what I’ve been trying to improve most all year,” Kirk said. “Reaction time, making sure I’m coming off horizontal out of the blocks, driving (my legs) as long as I need to. I did that all today in the 100 and the 200 (get-off) was pretty good, too.”

While outlasting Cherokee Trail’s Peyton Sommers (21.66) and Maldonado (21.69) in the 200, Kirk said his mindset was “run like if I got caught, I would die.”

Kirk also ran the anchor on the Angels’ 4×100-meter relay that finished fifth on Sunday, and Denver East took seventh overall as a team. Castle View’s Ace Malone rounded out the short-sprint champions in Class 5A boys by taking the 400-meter in 47.18.

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