The state track and field meet isn't always about winning titles. Sometimes, just getting there is the accomplishment.
Hayden's team fits into both categories this year.
While the boys 400-meter relay team of Jesse Drennan, Tyson Letlow, Kenny Gehrman and Evan Hilling is a favorite to win a state championship, and Hilling, Drennan and Tyson Sweeter are expected to do well in individual events, the Tigers are taking perhaps their most balanced team in years to Pueblo.
Hayden has entrants in four field events, individual sprints, sprint relays and a distance relay. The two-day Class 2A/3A State Track and Field Championships opens at 9:30 a.m. Friday at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo.
"We worked them, I don't want to say hard, but pretty decent Monday," Tigers coach Kevin Kleckler said. "It was the hardest of the four days. We did run hills and did some other things."
Hayden is sending 12 athletes to state. Most already knew they were going to Pueblo after qualifying earlier in the season at selected meets.
Several did not have that luxury, so it was easy to understand why members of Hayden's 3,200-meter relay team -- Amber Suits, Mariah Doolin, Jessica Martin and Lauren Branstetter -- and its 1,600-meter relay team of Zathan Bark, Chris Suits, Sweetser and Keenan Bruchez were elated after posting school record times en route to qualifying Saturday at regionals.
"They ran like men possessed," Kleckler said of his 1,600-meter quartet. "I knew they were going to do well. I just didn't know how fast they were going to run. I had Zathan open up. He runs the best first leg."
And Kleckler thinks Bruchez is the perfect anchor. On Saturday, Dolores' final runner tried to pass Bruchez on the last turn. Bruchez passed him back to finish second.
"He has the biggest heart," Kleckler said. "He won't let someone pass him. He'll step it up."
The same goes for the four girls representing the Tigers this weekend. Suits was the only volunteer 800-meter runner. The other three were forced to do it.
"I saw some opportunity to go to state in that event," Kleckler said. "They were upset about it. They didn't want to run the 800. I put Amber (Suits) as the first leg, knowing she runs a very good 800. She was in second, and the girls believed in themselves and adrenaline is an amazing thing. I knew they could pull through."
The Tigers leave Thursday morning and will stop in Golden to practice before continuing on to Pueblo. A pep rally will be held at the Hayden High School gym at 8 a.m.