The clock tower loomed high over the Denver East campus. If you look hard enough, you could see the seconds tick on by. That age-old instrument of measure, watching, judging, like a objective old relative who's never wrong. You can't cheat the clock...
Several hundred feet below a figure sat on the red track, the same one the clock shed a shadow over in the mornings.
She meticulously tightened her bright orange spikes. Her long black hair was up in two tight buns, and navy tights hid the set of legs that had propelled her to eight state titles, two state records, and a slew of wins that go well into the double digits.
She set her spiked feet back into the blocks with that long red straightaway in front of her. Eyes caste down, hands delicately touching the track. In this one moment the world turned a little slower, sounds grew dim, even the clock.
It's a moment she's experienced more times than she can remember.
She crouched still, calm on the outside, but with all the ingredients inside mixing together in one perfect concoction. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting, patiently in the blocks for the gun to fire, or in this case, her coach to slap his hands, sending her in one massive explosion out, hurling an unrivaled speeds down the track, or into the stratosphere, alone.
Arria Minor is like a rocket, just waiting to break free. And when the starter's gun fires, there's no stopping her.
The Denver East senior has raged around the tracks of Colorado for four years, and in that time she's transcended her competition, and the clock, to become Colorado's fastest sprinter ever.
Her eight state titles, and two state records are proof of that.
While she enters her final state competition as a clear favorite to defend her state titles, it wasn't always that way.
The Road To The Top
"I didn't think I'd win state (my freshmen year)" Minor explained. "I was really surprised when I did."
That year Minor made a splash on the Colorado state scene by winning the 100 in 11.83, the 200 in 23.53, and the 400 in 52.50.
"That was my first really big meet," she said. "I was really nervous."
For Denver East head coach Steve Kiper, that freshmen season was about managing, and ultimately diminishing doubt.
"Her freshman year she didn't know what to expect," he said. "She had some doubts, but she was able to put those to rest."
From then on, the bar had been raised. Winning state as a freshmen left three more years of expectations to fulfill, but for Minor, it's not all about winning.
"The goal is never to necessarily win, but to continue improving on my times," she explained. "My goal is to go after all the state records."
As it is, chasing records typically will included victory as well.
She duplicated her three state titles a year later, winning the 100 in 11.53, the 200 in 23.57, and the 400 in 53.30.
While the state titles started stacking up, the real record chase began, as Minor was able to shift her focus from winning to record setting.
During the 2018 indoor season she picked up her first national title, winning the 400 in 52.74 at New Balance Nationals Indoor, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
At last year's state championships Minor utilized the ideal weather during the preliminary heats and dropped two state records on the same day. Her 22.89 in the 200, and 51.92 in the 400 gave her two of the three records she had been eyeing.
"I never thought I was a 400 runner," she admitted. "Breaking the 400 record was one of my best moments."
The effort, however, proved to come with an unintended sacrifice.
Racing three events with three preliminary heats, and running two state records in the process proved to expose Minor as human - go figure.
Minor suffered the only defeat of her Colorado high school career in a final to Lily Williams in the 400. Still, Minor clocked a 53.94 to finish second days after setting the state record in the prelims of the event.
The one state record that has eluded Minor over the past few years has been the 100, and it's the one she's got her sights set on this week at the state championships.
One More Record To Chase
"This year, me not running the 400 will make it easier for me to go after the 100 record," she said. "I'm really excited to go after it."
The 100 record, owned by Caryl Smith, has stood at 11.31 since 1987. It's the second-oldest state record on the girl's list.
That year the Bangles "Walk Like An Egyptian," was the No. 1 song, "Three Men And A Baby," was the top movie in the box office, and the New York Giants beat the Broncos 39-20 in the Super Bowl 21.
Clearly, a lot has changed since then.
Minor already owns state records in the 200 and the 400, making her the No. 1 sprinter in Colorado's rich history. Adding the 100 would only solidify her place among the thrown of Colorado Sprint History.
She inched towards the record last year, running 11.38, and so far this year has run 11.51. The record is within her sights.
Now she'll toe the line one more time at the 2019 Colorado State Track and Field Championships.
Back To Where It All Began
For Minor, Jeffco Stadium and the State meet hold an origin story of sorts.
"The state meet is special to be, because it's where I discovered my talent," Minor shared.
Returning to where it all began with her sights set on claiming the only remaining sprint-record there is for her to claim may seem to come with expectations, but Minor has clearly found a way to curb any external expectations, and simplify the process, just as she had since her freshmen year.
"No matter what, she can relax a little bit," assistant coach Michael Tasker said. "(she can) have some fun and enjoy her last state meet, knowing that no matter what happens, she's accomplished so much."
While the stage is set for one last performance, Minor acknowledged that racing at Jeffco one more time will be nostalgic.
"I've been running in Colorado for four years in front of the same people," she explained. "It's like a home to me. Running there (Jeffco Stadium) for the last time will be sad, but I'm excited for what's to come."
And what's to come is the University of Georgia.
But before the curtains falls on her high school career in Colorado, Minor's got a few obstacles to tackle first: two more state titles, and another state record to run.
Minor's State Schedule:
Thursday - 8:35 a.m. - 100 Dash Prelims
Thursday - 12:10 p.m. - 200 Dash Prelims
Saturday - 10:57 a.m. - 100 Dash Finals
Saturday - 1:42 p.m. - 200 Dash Finals