Tigers hope to qualify as many as 15 for state

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— Hayden High School track and field coach Kevin Kleckler says this is what coaching is all about.

With Emily Whiteman (shot put) the only Tiger pre-qualified for state, Kleckler knows today and Saturday's regional meet at Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction marks the last opportunity for teams and individuals to qualify for the state meet. The top three finishers in each event at regionals advance to the state meet in Pueblo on May 18 and 19.

"It's all boiling down to this meet, and there's a little pressure because of it," Kleckler said. "But that is the thrill of athletic competition."

While there may be some pressure, it hasn't curved Kleckler's expectations. Kleckler said he wants to bring between 10 and 15 Tigers to the state meet.

Along with Whiteman, who also has a chance to qualify in the discus, Kleckler said several athletes and relay teams have a shot at making it to state. On the boys side, both the 4x100- and 4x200-meter relays have dominated competition all year and could take the regional championship.

Individually, Kleckler said sprinters Jake Walker, Coy Letlow and Zathan Bark have good shots at qualifying in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Last week at the league tournament in West Grand, Walker finished just a step behind defending 100-meter state champion Sam McKinley from Grand Valley. Kleckler said Billy Zehner also should be tough in the hurdles as well as the long and triple jumps.

On the girls side, Holli Salazar should qualify in the shot put after finishing just inches short of pre-qualifying several times this year. Maddison Kopsa (triple jump) and Ashlee Doolin (high jump) also have a chance to qualify.

In what might be the most intriguing race, Kleckler said the girls 4x800-meter relay team should be in a hotly contested battle with Paonia, Soroco and Crested Butte for one of the three slots to state.

"We'll be at full power (today)," said Kleckler. "We're looking forward to it. It's the end of season and the next step to state."

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