Lakewood Steamboat Springs' Jessica Flores has waited four years for her chance to compete in the 100-meter hurdles at the State Track and Field Championships, so it's not a big surprise that the senior is making the most of her only opportunity.
"I'm hoping to break into the top five," Flores said with a smile late Friday afternoon.
"I always knew I was good enough to be here. Now I just have to show what I have."
Making Friday's cut may have been the second biggest moment in the Steamboat Springs senior's high school career falling right behind last weekend's finish in the regional qualifier that got her here.
The hurdler wasn't fazed about finishing fourth in her heat in the preliminaries with a time of 16.47.
"This is all that matters. I don't even care if I make it to finals, because I got here and that is all that matters," Flores said before finding out she had made it.
However, Flores will get one more shot in the hurdles in today's finals thanks in part to being a part of one of the fastest heats of the day. Flores was in the heat with Broomfield's Lisa Holeman, who posted the fastest time of the day at 15.26. She may have also been helped by a false start in the first heat, which eliminated Widefield's Rachelle Mims and may have made the other hurdlers in the first heat a little more cautious. Only one runner in the group finished under 16 seconds.
"I was really nervous," Flores said. Flores was in the heat that followed the false start. "The false start was all I was thinking about. I think I stayed in my blocks a little bit because I didn't want to false start."
Flores was one of two Steamboat Springs athletes to advance from the preliminary round to today's finals. Flores will compete in the 100-meter hurdles and teammate Lennae Jenkins will run in the 400-meter dash.
"It's a new track that feels really, really fast," Jenkins said. "I tried kicking it with 110 meters left and I actually had something left to kick it."
Jenkins wasn't sure if the extra energy came from being at state, a good warmup or the fact she has been eating well and resting the past few days.
But it turned out that Jenkins would need the kick to make the finals cut.
After leading about a third of the race, Jenkins was passed by Niwot's Jenni Roueche and Berthoud's Kristina Hutmacher down the stretch. Hutmacher just leaned past the Steamboat runner at the finish line to steal second and an automatic invitation to the finals.
"I don't know where she came from," Jenkins said. "I was worried about the girl in green on the inside not her."
The top two in each heat qualify for the finals, plus the next three best times. So after the race, Jenkins was forced to sit in the stands and wait to find out if her time of 1 minute, 1.8 seconds would be good enough to run today.
When the announcement she had made it was read out loud over the Jefferson County stadium loudspeakers, Jenkins, her teammates and the fans that came out to support her released a cheer of relief.
While Flores and Jenkins look forward to one last race, the season ended for senior distance runner Ian Ramsay Friday.
Ramsay finished in 16th place in the 1,600-meter run. Lewis-Palmer's David Olson won the even in a record time of 4:12.61.
Harrison's Eduardo Pasko (4:24.46) and Evergreen's Matt Dern (4:25.12) followed the Colorado Springs runner across the finish line but never threatened to win.
"A lot of the people behind him tried to keep up with him," Ramsay said. "I was stuck in a pack in the back. I didn't run very well."
Ramsay finished with a time of 4:36.52.
"I'm just happy that I made it to state," Ramsay said. "It doesn't matter that I ran bad it was just cool being here."
In other finals on the first day, Pueblo Centennial's Jenna Bimbi won the girls 1,600-meter run in a time of 5:01.50. Moffat County's Charlotte Steele finished fourth in that event with a time of 5:15.44 and teammate Danielle Brown was 10th at 5:25.86.
Mullen won the girls' 3,200-meter relay with a time of 9:36.85 and Liberty topped the boys' field with a time of 7:57.37.
Moffat County was eighth in the girls' 3,200-meter relay in both the boys' and girls' races.
The state track meet will continue today at the Jeffco Stadium. Flores is scheduled to run in the 100-meter hurdle finals at 11:45 a.m. and Jenkins is set to start the 400 at 1:45 p.m.