The Widefield boys' track and field team has plenty of reason for optimism going into the state meet next month: maturing sprinters, powerful throwers, Maximilliano Martinez's healing foot.
The Gladiators won their second meet of the season, claiming the Coronado Cougar Classic in the cold on Friday. They won the 400 relay in 43.41 and finished inside the top five in nine other events to lead the 34-team invite with 70 points.
Widefield coach Fred Marjerrison said if the state meet started this weekend his team would be in 11 events. At least publicly, he didn't want to forecast too much further than that.
"What we're trying to do now is solidify those areas and make sure that we're in, and try to sneak a few more kids in," Marjerrison said. "(We'll) worry about what we can do at the state meet when we get there. Talking about it now really doesn't do a whole lot."
Of the most promising sights was Martinez, who has been dealing with nagging foot injuries all spring season.
In the 1,600-meter run, the Gladiators' decorated distance runner stayed pace with TCA's Tanner Norman, who has emerged as one of the fastest runners in the nation, and finished just 1.65 seconds behind at 4:24.40.
"It's getting better, it comes and goes," Martinez said of his foot pain. "I'm really excited. I feel good, running fast, finally, after all these little nagging injuries.
Jaquaireus Grant led the way for the Gladiators, anchoring the 400 relay while taking second in the 400 (51.51). Nate Miller added a third-place finish in the shot put (46-feet and 7 inches) and was also third in discus (153-10).
With a lot of the same faces from last year's team that took 22nd at 4A state, the Gladiators have taken a giant leap in 2017.
"We just started to do offseason training a little bit," Grant said. "We came out here to eat and do our thing."
Widefield, which won the state track and field title three years in a row from 1979-81, hasn't had the same bulk of athletes to choose from since Mesa Ridge was built down the road in 1997.
Since then, the boys' team has finished third four times under Marjerrison in his 12 years as head coach, he said.
It's hard not to wonder "what if?"
"You look at the community there in the Widefield-Security area without Mesa Ridge there," Marjerrison said. "Great school, they've always been pretty tough. We always sit around and you know the what-ifs -- what if Mesa Ridge wasn't built? You look at the years where we finished in the top three and Mesa Ridge finished in the top 10. How many state titles could we have won if another high school wouldn't have been built?"