LAKEWOOD • The lights don't get brighter than those of Jeffco Stadium on state track and field weekend.
Having a trusted partner dims them, though. A coach and past events under the same lights do too. And at times, blissful ignorance can play a part, as it did in Ellicott's 4x100-meter state title time of 50.78 seconds when freshman Teysia Tacoronte overcame three other competitors in the final leg to win it.
The group, with juniors Aileen Gutierrez and Alyssa Lagasse joining Tacoronte and fellow freshman Micheyla Stewart, has been through all kinds of lights together. They've played multiple sports together already, including basketball where the Thunderhawks went 18-5.
"They played in playoff basketball together," relay coach Greg Koenig said. "They're all in my weightlifting class together, and they just work extremely hard and push each other. They've invested in each other and bought in to what we asked."
A few weeks ago, the four started to see a championship reality.
Their 53-plus-second time earlier in the year had gradually gotten better, handoff by handoff. Those exchanges were the one thing holding the group back, because the speed was always there.
"Once we started working on exchanges and changing things for the better, it started to feel real," Gutierrez said. "We started to do a lot of things other teams weren't doing.
"We wouldn't accept less than first," Stewart added.
In preliminaries, the four fell short of expectations. But between those seeding sprints and Sunday's final, they were able to compete in the triple jump and other races, putting the original time away from their minds.
Tacoronte taking the final baton and darting to a photo first-place finish was a year — and several sports — in the making.
And what a year it was.