DESTINY is calling Aani Hardesty to Jeffco Stadium in metro Denver and this weekend’s Colorado High School Class 3A State Track & Field Championships.
The Alamosa High star hurdler spent the winter refining her techniques, lifting weights and getting stronger throughout her lean frame. She took off the volleyball season intentionally so she could work with her track coach, Aaron Williams, knowing that if she put in the time throughout the year, the payoff would come in the spring, on the track.
Now here she is, looking to win state titles in the 300-meter hurdles and the 100-meter hurdles beginning with Thursday and Friday prelims. As a team, Alamosa High will also have its outstanding girls middle-distance and distance runners, relay teams, and qualifiers in the high jump and shot put competing to make a strong push for the state team title.
Heartbreak a year ago
A year ago Hardesty lost the 300-meter title on a lean at the end, the second time she finished runner up in the state race. She’s determined to make her training and focus pay off with a state title in her senior year.
“I’d say 300 hurdles, I’m going to win it. I hope I win it. I’ve been runner up in that (race) two years in a row now, so this is the year that I want to get that state championship,” she said.
The 100-meter hurdle race is newer to her. It wasn’t until the middle of this track season that she started to figure out the timing and rhythm to the shorter race, and now she takes into the state meet the fastest-qualifying time in 15.59 seconds.
“The 100 hurdles, I never really anticipated becoming a state champion in those,” she said. “Aaron told me not to overlook those at the beginning of the year and now I see that I am excelling in those. I hope I win, but we’ll see how it goes. It’s a tight race in that one. I’m going to do my best to win.”
Hardesty is headed to Colorado School of Mines on a track scholarship in the fall. That fact, plus having teammate Lily Heersink at the starting line of the 300-meter hurdles with her, alleviates some of the pressure of being a state meet favorite.
“I’m a little nervous but Aaron has been telling me ‘no pressure,’” she said.
“I’m feeling pretty confident and I’m really thankful Lily (Heersink) is with me too. We’ll be able to race the 300 hurdles together so I have someone there to warm up with me and we can keep our cool together.”
Alamosa High has produced fine hurdlers but never a state champion hurdler. Hardesty could change that. She said it’s the exhilaration of racing in the hurdles – an event that requires rhythm, timing, coordination, speed and strength – that has pushed her to train and work harder.
While she competes at the 3A classification for Alamosa High, her qualifying times in the 300- and 100-meter hurdles are among the fastest in Colorado regardless of school classification.
She’s aware of that, and knows all eyes will be on her when she is in the starting blocks. But again, she’s headed to Mines in the fall, and so she knows the state high school championships are not the end of the road.
“That’s what’s pretty cool, too,” she said of her standing among Colorado high school hurdlers. “That’s another thing, I’m committed to Mines so I don’t feel as much pressure with this meet because I know that it’s not the end.
“I get to keep working on myself and I know that I’m not at my peak right now. I’m going to get stronger in the years to come.”
When she gets into the starting blocks, she’ll take a deep break, relax and go.
“I love the adrenaline from it. You’re just pumping and then you get in your blocks and it’s just go, see what you can do.”
She expects state gold on Saturday. Destiny is calling for her.
Full list of Class 3A qualifiers:
Alamosa takes a strong group of distance runners to the state meet, including Sarah DeLaCerda, Elizabeth McQuitty, Autumn McQuitty, Sr., and Madeline Castillo. They all contributed to Alamosa High’s state cross country championship in the fall and will look to find themselves on the medal stand at the state track and field championships.
Centauri High’s Troy Sowards is one to watch in the boy’s high jump. He takes the third best qualifying jump into the state meet at 6 feet, 6 inches. Alamosa High’s Brant Jackson Jr. has a qualifying jump of 6 feet, 2 inches.