Pueblo Jacques Denker had dreams he and his friends would be state champions, but the reality proved better than anything he could ever imagine.
Running in what turned out be school record times, Denker, Kevin Miller, Glen Frentress and Derek Stephenson captured the Class 2A state titles in both the 4x100- and 4x200-meter relays at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo Saturday.
It was the first state titles for Hayden since Jon Walker won the 100-meter dash 17 years ago.
"Before the race, Kevin told us no matter what happens no one can take this away from us," Denker said.
He was referring to the camaraderie established among the close friends, classmates and teammates, but now they have two sets of medals to provide tangible evidence of everything they aspired to achieve.
"All year it had been built up for us to be state champions," Frentress said. "We felt this was our chance."
In relays the combination of speed and timing has to be just right, but to win a state title it must be perfect. Nothing evidenced that more than the 1:31.73 the four posted to win the 4x200. It was more than one second lower than Friday's preliminary time. Their winning time in the 4x100, 44.16, was nearly .8 better than in the preliminaries.
Assistant coach Sally Morton works with the relay teams on hand-offs. The four are obviously blessed with natural speed, but the time gained or lost in hand-offs is essential for success. The boys were told they could be in the exchange zone no more than 2.0 seconds if they wanted to win a state title.
"On Friday they did pretty well, but I told them there was room for improvement," Morton said.
What about Saturday?
"I was too excited to keep track," she said.
All of this was accomplished despite having their skulls and flames baton taken away by state officials for failing to meet the required standards.
"It was too rough or something," the guys said.
In addition, they were so excited after winning the 4x200 they forgot tape to mark their exchange zones in the 4x100.
Their absent-mindedness didn't matter.
"We knew we had it in us," Miller said. "Like I said Friday, it was going to come down to who wanted it more."
Also placing at state and posting another personal-best time was Soroco junior Jessie deGanahl.
Stuck in Lane 8 by the cement wall, she crossed the line in 48.97 to finish fifth in the 300 hurdles, cutting nearly one second off her preliminary time.
"I'm really excited," she said. "I've never had to run the corner before so I wasn't really prepared for it, but I've taken nearly two seconds off my time since regionals.
The Rams' Andy deGanahl placed sixth in the 400 with a time of 52.07. It was slower than his remarkable prelim time of 51.75, but he was pleased with how his first experience at the state meet went.
"I learned that you have to bust your gut in the first 150 then maintain it," he said.
"I'm happy. I didn't really even expect to make finals."
In addition to the outstanding performances from the boys' relay teams, Hayden had several other entrants place at the state meet.
Miller finished fifth in the 200 with a 23.22.
The girls' 4x100 team of junior Samantha Schoeberl, freshman Lauren Branstetter, senior Kristin Brown and junior Jaclyn Etzler came across the finish line in seventh with a time of 53.37.
Brown also qualified for the finals in the 100 hurdles and was one of the leaders over the first hurdle in Saturday's race.
She stumbled shortly after, however, and was never really able to regain her balance, crossing the line in 20.38.
With only eight in the finals field, she did place in her final state meet.
Tigers freshman Kayla Kostur experienced her first taste of the state meet May 17 and 18. She didn't place in Friday's triple jump but came back with an eighth-place finish in Saturday's high jump finals, clearing 4 feet, 10 inches.
"It's fun being here," she said. "It's really big. You walk in and there are bleachers on both sides and it's full of people and you are like, 'Wow.'"
Fans at Dutch Clark Stadium were treated to a particularly good showing from the track participants in Class 2A and 3A.
There were roughly 15 state records broken and countless other personal best times set, concluding the 2002 season on a positive note for many of the athletes, especially four seniors from Hayden.
"It was how I dreamed it would end," Denker said.