Hayden misses out on gold

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The 400-meter relay state title went to a team in orange and black. It just wasn't the Hayden Tigers.

With a time of 44.44 seconds, Del Norte picked up the championship that Hayden's Jesse Drennan, Tyson Letlow, Kenny Gehrman and Evan Hilling waited two years to win. The Tigers were second in 44.67, the second fastest time of the year for the Hayden quartet.

"Del Norte earned it," Hilling said. "I'm disappointed our (team) didn't win, but I'm proud of what we did and accomplished."

Drennan opened a plastic box holding his silver medal and shut it again.

"It's hard to get second and come back the next year and get second again," he said.

Last year, it was Telluride that edged past Hayden in the 400-meter relay finals.

For Hilling, Gehrman, Drennan and senior Lauren Branstetter, this weekend's Class 2A/3A State Track and Field Championships began three days before the end of their high school careers.

The four graduate today, and the looming graduation seemed to be more on Hilling's mind than his results at the state track meet Saturday.

Perched beneath an umbrella, trying to get all 6-foot-4 of his body under its shadow, Hilling talked about his state meet performance.

He and Drennan qualified in the maximum four events. Hilling placed in all four, taking second in the 400-meter relay, third in the 100 meters, fifth in the high jump and seventh in the 200-meter relay with Drennan, Letlow and Gehrman.

Drennan was seventh in the 800-meter relay and eighth in the triple jump, in addition to the team's runner-up finish in the 400-meter relay.

Hilling's third-place finish with a time of 11.56 was better than he expected in the 100 meters.

"I got a decent start," he said.

Limon's Jordan King won in 11.48 seconds. Teammate Tyson Liggett was second in 11.53. Soroco's Tony Iacovetto was sixth.

Creede's Dusty Fairchild won the high jump, clearing 6 feet, 8 inches. Hilling was fifth at a height of 5-2. Soroco won the 800-meter relay in a time of 1:31.81. Hayden crossed the line in 1:34.77.

Branstetter placed fourth in the 400 meters with a time of 63.01. She also helped anchor the 3,200-meter relay team to a 14th-place showing. Saturday's state final was the second time this season that Amber Suits, Mariah Doolin, Jessica Martin and Branstetter have run the race.

Suits is the only experienced 800 runner in the group, and this year's trip to state was her first.

"I was nervous," she said. "We decided to go out and run and have fun."

Although the race got started before noon, conditions already were hot on the Dutch Clark Stadium surface. Meet officials had a kiddie pool set up at the finish line so athletes could cool their feet after running on the scorching all-weather surface.

"I'm glad I had this experience," Martin said. "I'm glad all of us went to state."

Branstetter said that simply making it to state was the reward for this relay team.

"We've proved ourselves," she added.

In addition to Letlow, Suits, Martin and Doolin, juniors Tyson Sweetser and Keenan Bruchez will be back next season. On Saturday, Bruchez placed sixth in the discus with a throw of 134-10, and Sweetser, the school's record holder, took seventh with a throw of 134-7.

As a team, the boys placed eighth out of 43 schools, scoring 26 points. Branstetter scored the only five points for the girls.

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