With all due respect to the rest of the Class 2A regions statewide, the Hayden track and field team is certain the region it just competed in is the best, particularly on the boys' side.
With 20 teams in attendance, including some of the state's premier athletes regardless of class, the margin for error was slim to none. The Tigers learned this during the 800-meter relay when the failure to exchange the baton in the allotted zone disqualified the relay. "It was all nerves," sophomore Tyson Letlow said. The quartet of Jesse Drennan, Letlow, Kenny Gehrman and Evan Hilling responded in the 400-meter relay by turning in a season-best time of 44.90 seconds. Telluride came in first.
"We'll be aiming for them at state," Letlow said. Letlow added that the handoffs kept the Tigers from being right up there with Telluride and those will have to be improved before the Class 2A and 3A meet opens Friday at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo. Hilling also placed in the top three in the 100 and 200 meters to qualify for state, though he previously had done so in both events earlier in the season. For the most part, the Class 2A sprinters turned in times superior to those of the runners at the larger Class 3A and 4A levels. Hilling took second in the 100 with an 11.47. He ran faster in Friday's preliminaries. Hilling also placed second in the 200. Defeating Hilling in both races were the odds-on favorites to win state titles -- Kevin Ludwig from Telluride in the 100 and Soroco's Andy deGanahl in the 200, who is the defending state champion. "It is frustrating," Hilling said of repeatedly finishing behind deGanahl.
"But he's a great athlete. He pushes me a lot."
Joining the four boys at the state meet will be junior Lauren Branstetter. Branstetter placed third in the 400 with a 62.14 and was second in the 200 in 28.41. She also came in fourth in the 100 in 13.64, as Soroco's Melissa Roy just edged Branstetter out for the third spot. The top-three individuals or relays from regional competition automatically qualify for state.
Fourth was a spot freshman Jessica Martin found herself in twice. She took fourth in the 400 in 63.25 and came in fourth in the 200 in 28.70. The Tigers are undeniably a young squad with just two senior girls, Jana Denker and Andrea Deepe, so the nerves and adrenaline that accompany the regional meet was a new experience for many. Before the start of Saturday's events, Deepe sang the national anthem at Stocker Stadium, and her younger teammates followed that up with strong performances, most notably Martin.
"Ninety-nine percent of our athletes got personal records," Hayden coach Kevin Kleckler said. "They peaked at the right time." Also placing for Hayden on Saturday was Tyson Sweetser who took seventh in the shot put with a throw of 40 feet, 5 1/2 inches. He was also seventh Friday in the discus.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org