The three teams representing Delta County at Thursday's 2A state track meet in Lakewood, and 4A Delta High School, went through their final paces and prepared to peak at the right time during last Saturday's track meet at Cedaredge High School.
The hometown Bruins appeared to hit their stride at just the right time as both the boys' and girls' squads from Cedaredge won the 4x100 relay races in impressive fashion.
The Cedaredge girls served notice they will be well-represented in the 4x100 relay. The two-time state champion relay team was the talk of the meet as the foursome of Amber Jenkins, Shayna Dale, Kenzie Henderson and Kendall McHugh torched the race in 49.13, setting a new state record in the process. The old record, set last year by Cedaredge's 400 relay team of Jenkins, Dale, Mackenzie Kehmeier and McHugh, was set at 49.71. The 49.71 remains in place for this week's state track meet competition.
The Bruins also had a school record of 49.32 (Summer Herman, Tani Zamarripa, Savannah McIntire and Sierra Williams) which was eclipsed with this year's 49.13.
Bruins coach Kirby Henderson said that he expected something special from the four runners and he thought going into the meet that they might put up a state record.
"Yes, actually we did," Henderson said. "Three of those girls are seniors and one of them said, 'It's our last home track meet, let's run it and set a state record. Let's go out with a bang.' And when they want it, when they know what they want to get done, that's better than a coach telling them what to do. For them to do that, it was no surprise."
Cedaredge has claimed the state championship in the event the last two years in a row and hope to make it three this weekend.
Delta's Lily Lockhart capped her outstanding regular season with a meet record-setting throw of 131-09 in discus competition and added the shot put title (39-0.25), a feat she repeated multiple times this season.
Jacob Wear had another strong race for Delta's boys in the 800m run. He won the race in a time of 2:03.20.
In boys' competition, Montrose won the invitational with 138 team points. Cedaredge was second at 92.5 while Delta came in fourth with 76 points. Paonia was fifth in the boys' standings with 60 points and Hotchkiss posted 43.5 points for eighth place.
The Cedaredge boys'' squad claimed the 4x100 relay last Saturday as well with its time of 44.64 seconds. Shawn Badding started and handed off to second leg Ty Grant. Tyler Cooper ran the third leg and passed the baton to anchor Isaac Swoffer, who blazed to the finish line and secured the win for the Bruins. Swoffer also won the 100-meter dash in 11.46.
"Those guys want it really bad," Henderson said. "There's some things we can do a little bit better in practice, like handoffs as we just saw there. But the fact that they desire it and they want it tells you that they're going to improve."
The Bruins' Shane Gates picked up 10 points when he won the 300 hurdles in 40.55.
The Bruins were bolstered by their performance as they go into this weekend's state tournament.
"The girls that we have are going to give everything they've got to go for it and push Paonia to new heights, and push us at the same time," Henderson said. "On the boys' side there's great competition across the board. We're trying to solidify our relay teams and it's getting closer and closer, so we'll be ready."
The three-time defending state champion Paonia Eagles girls' team prepped for state by winning last Saturday's team competition with 160 points.
Even the Eagles were impressed when Cedaredge set a new state record.
"That was a really impressive run by Cedaredge. I got off the track and they were celebrating, and I was like, that's a state record, there's no doubt," Eagles senior Marisa Edmondson said after the Eagles relay team finished third in the 4x100.
For Paonia it was all about getting ready for state.
One of the main storylines this weekend will be Paonia's pursuit of its fourth straight 2A state title, which would give the six Eagles seniors an unbeaten mark in career state tournaments.
But if they do win it again, the other Eagles will play a key role in making it happen. Last Saturday in Cedaredge, junior Sophia Anderson won the 100-meter dash with her time of 12.82 seconds.
McKenna Palmer won the triple jump for Paonia with her effort of 35 feet, 2.75 inches.
Ashley Van Vleet picked up 10 team points for the Eagles after her victory in the high jump when she cleared 5 feet, 3.5 inches.
The Eagles won the 800 medley relay with their first-place time of 1:53.55.
"These past few weeks we've had some amazing performances from our team," Edmondson said. "Everybody is just looking really good and I really think we're all gonna peak at state."
Edmondson said she and fellow seniors Taylor Carsten, Ashley Van Vleet, Chelsea Meilner, Chey Christian and Emily Clawson are confident that the whole Eagles team will be ready.
"If we run our best, there's no way in my mind that we could not win," Edmondson said. "I know we're gonna run our best. Everyone is so passionate, and they want this for the seniors because this will be a four-peat for us, but we've kind of passed on the passion for it and they want it for themselves as much as we do."
The Eagles added another milestone to their already impressive track and field performances over the years. Junior Brianna Van Vleet tied the girls' all-time long jump record by sailing 18-4 last Saturday in Cedaredge.
Cameron Van Vleet was a winner for Paonia's boys with his 23.41 dash in the 200 meters.
Hotchkiss will round out the local 2A contingent at state this weekend. The Bulldogs saw Zack Allen win the high jump last Saturday and hope he will be able to do it again at state.
"He felt really good about his jumping today," Hotchkiss coach Kelly Cowan said. "This will be three years in a row for Zack so he's going to have experience. Our other jumper is a freshman and he has potential to place as well."
Cameron Matus set a personal record in the shot put last Saturday and will also look to excel for the Bulldogs on the big stage at state.
"That's just great to see," Cowan said. "Hanging in there like he did, in fact he got a personal record today, hopefully he'll go down to state and throw farther yet."
The Hotchkiss girls have a veteran group that will be strong in the relays.
"Hopefully on the girls' side we'll have four relays," Cowan said. "I feel good about them. Our relays are in good position. I'm anxious to see what we can do down there."
Senior Mae Anderson will complete her outstanding career at Hotchkiss as Cowan said he thinks she'll compete in the relays and probably will run the 800 and 1,600.
"Mae has just been so solid for us for the last four years," Cowan said. "Katie Parsons has been solid for us, too. She overcame an injury from last year that kept her out most of the season, so I know she'll be hungry going in there."
Anderson and Parsons form the backbone of the Hotchkiss relay teams along with Sophia Schelle.
"Those three have been part of relays that have won gold medals for us before, so experience means a lot when you get down there (at state)," Cowan said. "We're anxious to get there and see what happens."
The 2A state track meet starts Thursday and runs through Saturday at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood.