Hayden's 400 relay dominates in Pueblo

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Hayden's Jesse Drennan doesn't want to sound overconfident, but there was no question he wanted everyone at Pueblo's Dutch Clark Stadium to know that the 400-meter relay is Hayden's event.

By the time Drennan handed off the baton in the first leg of the event, Hayden already had assumed the lead. His teammates Tyson Letlow, Kenny Gehrman and Evan Hilling weren't about to give it back en route to posting the fastest qualifying time of the day at 44.59 seconds.

"This is our event, and we aren't about to let anyone beat us," Drennan said. "It's like Andy deGanahl in the 200- or 400-meter dash."

Last year, the Tigers' 400-meter relay team also qualified for the finals. But they finished second to Telluride. It's something the Hayden runners have been thinking about.

"We are not focused on it," Drennan said. "But we all remember getting beat in the finals last year. I think it pushed us a little bit this year."

His teammate Evan Hilling said the race was a near-perfect effort by the Tigers, but that there is always room for improvement.

"Things were smooth today," Hilling said after the race. "But that doesn't mean we can take it easy in the finals."

Although the boys cruised to today's 400-meter relay finals, which are scheduled for 12:55 p.m., they are not the only Tigers still competing in Pueblo.

The same combination of runners also qualified to run in the 800-meter relay after qualifying with the sixth fastest time of the day (1:34.13).

Hilling also made the cut in the boys 100-meter dash with a time of 11.56, and teammate Lauren Branstetter qualified in the girls 400-meter dash with a time of 1:01.74.

The time gave Branstetter a new school record, breaking the one she set as a junior of 1:01.8.

"Lauren had a great first day," coach Kevin Kleckler said. "I'm really proud of her and of the whole team."

Kleckler credited his coaching staff with the team's success on the opening day.

Thanks to the Tigers' top showings, today is shaping up to be another busy day.

Tyson Sweetser and Keenan Bruchez will compete in the discus. Hilling will also be competing in the high jump, and the girls' 3,200-meter relay team will get a chance to show what they can do in the finals.

Sweetser is looking forward to another chance at the state podium today. Despite improving his mark in the shot put by 28 inches Friday, the Hayden junior just missed the finals, placing 10th with an effort of 46-feet, 6-inches. Although the mark was not good enough for a medal, it did result in throwing coach Leif Jacobsen getting a tattoo on the back of his calf that says "sweet." Jacobsen said it was payment for a bet that he made with Sweetser that he couldn't break the 45-foot mark at the state meet. He never dreamed the thrower would make such a huge leap in just won meet. Stratton senior Eric Cure won the shot-put title with a throw of 51-11.25.

Sweetser's teammate Drennan also earned an eighth-place finish in the triple jump with an effort of 41-6. Rangley senior Jason Brenton, who set a new state record with a jump of 48-4, won the event.

The state meet will continue at 10 a.m. today in Pueblo.

Center is currently leading the team standings with 28 points, Rocky Ford is second with 12 points, and Limon is third with 11 points. However, things will change today as the team's move away from the preliminary rounds into the finals.

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