Tasty Race Tuesday: The 2019 4A State 4x400


Ok. 

So picture this:

It's the 2019 Colorado State Track & Field Championships, and the 4A team title goes down to the last event of the meet - the 4x400. 

The 4x4 is already one of the most exciting events to watch, and now there's a teeny-tiny, no big deal, real reason to watch.

And it's down to two teams.

Pueblo East held a slim lead heading into the final event with 60 points, though with no squad in the 4x4 they were left to watch their fate unfold over four laps, because Niwot only needed a sixth-place finish to claim the title. 

What's at stake?

A 4x400 state title, and a team state title.

No big deal - right?

For this week's edition of Tasty Race Tuesday, we've got a mouth-watering plot of four chimichangas for each lap that this race raged on, a juicy side of a beef burrito that's tightly wrapped with bean and cheese and a little guacamole for flavor to get you through that insane final lap (a fairly sizable side, I know), and for dessert, the most iconic dive at the line for a state title anyone has ever seen - better than flan. 

This race is so tasty we saved it for Cinco de Mayo!

Additionally, this edition of Tasty Race Tuesday is dedicated to Niwot head track coach Maurice Henriques - "Coach Mo," and his wife, who are currently battling COVID-19

So, back to what was at stake...

One one hand, there was Pueblo East who needed Niwot to finish outside the top six, on the other hand there was Niwot, who needed to finish sixth or better to claim the state title.

On paper, the odds leaned in favor of Niwot, who entered the final with the second fastest 4x4 from the prelims - a 3:25.17, which was just behind Widefield's 3:24.94.

So, a sixth-place finish or better for a state title?

No pressure. 

Th opening leg did little to separate most of the teams, and little to tell us who'd be standing on top of the podium for the team awards afterwards. 

Durango held a slim lead at the end of the first handoff, though Widefield and Niwot were less than a stride behind. 

Around the top of the turn Glenwood Springs took a brief lead with the inside stagger, though Niwot was quick to respond on the break and took the lead down the backstretch.  

Widefield hovered just a stride back while Glenwood Springs gave chase. 

The two fastest squads from the prelims entered the final straight nearly a second clear of the field, while Glenwood clung to third and Durango charged hard.

Halfway through the race Widefield passed the baton onwards into the third leg less than a stride ahead of Niwot, while Glenwood Springs and Durango were virtually locked in the third position.

Widefield held the lead into early stages of  the third leg of the 4x4 while Niwot chased, but behind them the battle was heating up. Durango came storming back into the race for the state title, bringing Glendwood Springs along with them. 

With 200 to go in the leg, and 600 in the race, Niwot stormed into the lead as all four squads remained somewhat in contention. 

Heading into the final straightaway Niwot stretched their lead to nearly 10 meters while Durango climbed their way into second. 

On the final handoff the stage was set. 

It would be Niwot's Jack Kenkel verses Durango's Aidan Fitzgerald


When these two went head-to-head a day earlier in the 800 final, Fitzgerald came out ahead with a runner-up finish in 1:53.45, just ahead of Krenkel's 1:55.43, fourth-place finish.

Additionally, Fitzgerald was just two days removed from putting the explanation point on Durango's stellar 7:48 4x800 victory, which was a state meet record.

Krenkel was the first to get the baton in his hands and turn onwards into the final quarter of the 4x4, though Fitzgerald was a tenth of a second or so back.

Into the top of the curve Krenkel ran on with Niwot's dreams of a team state title while Fitzgerald gave chase. Widefield trailed about 15 meters back with Glenwood Springs also in the chase.

But the race was down to two.

When Krenkel and Fitzgerald hit the 300-to-go marker the Durango senior hit the boosters and cruised on by the Niwot junior.

Fitzgerald's loose, smooth strides made the move look effortless, though Krenkel quickly shifted gears to keep pace.

Meanwhile Ryan Outler was in full flight, bringing Widefield back into the race as the three squads hit the final curve.

When they hit the straight Fitzgerald, pinstriped shorts and all, once again shifted gears and poured out everything he had into the final 100, and for a moment it looked like he'd give his squad yet another relay state title.

But Krenkel wasn't done.

The Niwot junior moved out into Lane 2 - the Lane of High Hopes - and threw everything that remained in his gas tank onto the track.

Krenkel devoured the ground beneath his feet, slicing and dicing away at Fitzgerald's lead.

Every stride brought him closer, though one haunting question remained: would he run out of real estate?

No.

Krenkel climbed his way back and caught Fitzgerald a few feet before the line. Hearing the crowd moments from crescendo sent Fitzgerald airborne in a final dive for the line.

But it was one stride to soon.

Fitzgerald's dive fell just inches short of the finish line. Krenkel followed suit with a timely dive of his own - and this one carried him across the line.

The scoreboard quickly read out the results: Niwot had the 4x4 state title in 3:22.86. Durango was second in 3:23.10, and Widefield was third in 3:24.16

High up in the stands the Niwot coaching staff erupted in cheers.

Not only did they capture a team state title in the most dramatic fashion - winning it on the final event of the meet, but they won the 4x4 in the most thrilling finishes in recent history.