Halfway through the most intense race of her high school career, Aryelle Wright sensed that a state title was within reach.
At the same time, Montezuma-Cortez High School head coach Jeremy Yarbrough stood trackside and nervously assessed the situation. His team’s star junior trailed heading into the turn, and he sensed that the finish would be tight.
“Coming around the turn at (200 meters), she was behind a little bit, but as she came around the corner, she passed three girls,” said Yarbrough. “I could tell that it was going to be close.”
Sure enough, the 400-meter dash in the 3A Classification at the Colorado High School State Track Championships on May 19 came down to inches as both Wright and Lutheran High School’s Regan Aurich stretched toward the finish line.
With drops of sweat flying through the air and cheers raining down from the grandstands, Wright left her feet and tumbled across the finish line for the victory.
Unsure of whether she had won, the junior glanced at the scoreboard and saw her name on top next to a time of 57.90 seconds, which was just .01 faster than Aurich’s second-place time of 57.91.
“It was so awesome to watch (Wright) run, and she did such a wonderful job,” Yarbrough said. “She’s such a strong competitor mentally and physically, and she has a lot of confidence that she can go out and do what she needs to be done.”
Wright also finished fifth in the 200-meter dash (25.81) and 12th in the 100-meter dash (12.65), the third state meet of her already illustrious high school career.
As a sophomore, Wright placed second in the 400-meter dash at the state meet with a time of 58.28. The time was fast enough to break M-CHS’ school record of 58.6, which was set by Wright’s mother, Amber Cunningham, in 1990.
She now has a new record.
After finishing second at state last year, Wright indicated that her goal over the next two seasons would be to return to the podium and finish the 400-meter dash in the range of 56 seconds.
Thanks to her performance at the state meet, Wright is now less than a second from her goal and has won a state championship.
“I’ve always loved running,” Wright said last year. “I started running when I was 9 months old. Mom said that she was always chasing me around the house. I was always just really fast.”
If her recent results provide any indication, M-CHS’ newest high school state champion won’t be slowing down soon.