Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Hayden High School senior Holli Salazar likes to play coy when the mention of back-to-back state shot put titles come up.
Initially, she won't admit she's the favorite in Class 2A. She'll talk about how everybody else has improved and works just as hard as she does.
She'll say she doesn't want to be cocky about throwing the shot much farther than anyone else. She won't let the fact that she's already going to Colorado State University-Pueblo to throw the shot and possibly the hammer make her say she's the favorite.
But press her, and Salazar admits anything less than a state championship "would be a huge disappointment."
Her personal best throw of 42 feet, 2 inches isn't even close to enough for her.
She's already seen a girl in Class 4A throwing in the 43-foot range. Salazar, who had the longest throw in the state last year, wants to not just be the best in Class 2A, but in the entire state.
She's not just eyeing a second state title, but the Class 2A state record of 43-3.
And that's the thing about Salazar. That's what makes her one of the best athletes in the state.
Anyone who saw her during the volleyball and basketball seasons knows how competitive she is.
Not winning is a huge letdown for her. It was just two years ago at the Clint Wells Invitational track meet in Craig, where Salazar easily won Friday, where the disenchantment of losing set in.
Salazar didn't hit the pre-qualifying state mark despite her best efforts that day. The look on her face told the story of just how competitive Salazar really is. She walked from the throwing pit across to hill below the parking lot. She wouldn't talk to anyone. She wouldn't smile, and the last thing she wanted to talk about was not making the mark and failing.
But from that point on, it was evident Salazar was intent on not losing again. She went through her junior year, showed up to the state meet and blew everyone out of the ring.
Now, there is an aura around Salazar when she throws. People and coaches from other schools stop and watch.
So even when the competition isn't up to her level, much like Friday's meet in Craig, Salazar still threw like it was the state championship.
"Everyone else is working as hard as I am, so it's just bettering myself," Salazar said. "They're getting closer, so I need to work a little bit harder."
Judging by those intangibles, it's not likely to see a disappointed Salazar come state track time.
- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org