Home Denver News East’s Arria Minor ties 32-year-old record in farewell prep track meet

East’s Arria Minor ties 32-year-old record in farewell prep track meet


They’ll always have Saturday. They’ll always have the last dance, the blessing and the blur, the bouquet of sunflowers kissed by tears of joy. They’ll always have the teddy bears, the ones Arria Minor used to bring to practice to try to steady her nerves.

They’ll always have Manitou Springs.

“Where are we climbing?” Arria had asked coach Steve Kiper some three years earlier as they arrived at Manitou’s base. Team-building exercise, he called it. “Is it just right here?”

“No,” the coach replied. Kiper pointed to another, higher peak, some 2,000 feet up, and to an incline that veered between 45 and 68 degrees. “We’re climbing to right there.”

He’ll always have the look, the one Minor shot him at that moment. The one that asked, without a single word, if he was Looney Tunes.

“Don’t worry,” the coach replied. “I’ll be here. Every step of the way.”

He was there Saturday at Jeffco Stadium, too, as Minor, the venerated Denver East sprinter, took a victory lap in her final state track meet and final high school competition. The senior tied the Colorado all-classification record in the 100-meter dash — set by the former Carly Smith of George Washington High in 1987 — with a time of 11.31 and would during the day claim state crowns in the 100, the 200 and in the 4×100 relay, capping one of the state’s most illustrious prep track careers with a resounding flourish.

And did we mention she managed all that while battling a serious case of the sniffles?

“The past three days, I haven’t slept,” Minor confessed with a grin. “I’ve had a cold, so it kind of (stinks). I’m going to get some sleep. I’m done with high school, so I’m going to just sleep.”

They’ll always have the record books. By the end of the afternoon, Minor held or tied the all-time Colorado marks in the 100, the 200 and the 400 in all classifications.

But the 100 was the last, and the hardest, domino to fall — the holy grail, the final dragon left to slay. Minor, who had toppled the state 200 and 400 marks last spring, and Kiper, her East coach, had targeted Smith’s 11.31 for years as the final piece of the trifecta. Their elusive white whale.

She’d come closest at the Mullen Invitational last year, posting an 11.38 finish, and passed on chasing the 400 at state this spring in order to concentrate on the 100 mark.

“Records were made to be broken,” Smith, now Caryl Smith Gilbert and director of track and field at USC, told The Post via email. “I am so very proud of Arria … I wish her the very best at the state meet and beyond. She will have a stellar career.”

The pair actually met a while back, when Minor — who would sign with the University of Georgia last fall — took a visit to Los Angeles to tour out the Trojans’ digs. Arria’s mother, Jeannine, got a kick out seeing the two legendary Colorado sprinters together, especially when Smith Gilbert started playfully needling her daughter about the elephant in the room.

“OK, you’re getting kind of close (to the record),” the Washington alum teased. “Are you going to do it this year?”

“I’ll do my best,” Arria replied. “But you’ve got big shoes, lady.”

Minor found herself visibly shaking in the box Saturday morning, just before the starting gun. That was new. So was the restlessness, Mom said, and the sleepless nights that preceded the final curtain.

“We have a phrase that we always say: ‘Let them know you were here,’ ” Jeannine explained. “(I told her), ‘You know what, you’ve made it, you’ve done it, don’t put everything on just a record … If you get there, you do. But have fun. And let them know your name.’”

They’ll always have the legacy. Minor closed out her East ledger with 10 individual state crowns, including four titles each in in the 100 and the 200.

“Some track athletes are really cocky and they’re kind of hard to talk to,” Minor reflected. “I just want to be somebody that people can talk to and just learn from, (given) my experience of four years at state.”

The little girl with the teddy bears is a woman now. A legend who wants to give half as good as she gave.

“I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years,” Minor said. “I’d gotten (the bears) just to keep my anxiety under control. I used to have really, really bad anxiety. So I’m just happy to have accomplished that, getting my nerves under control, my anxiety.”

They grow up faster all the time, especially the fast ones. One of the best lines on parenting applies to teen years, too: The nights are long, but the years are short.

Blink, and you’ll miss her.

Lord knows he will.

“I’m like, man, where are the teddy bears?” Kiper laughed. “I want to see more teddy bears. She’d set them on the side of her bag with her tennis shoes and her bag. Now she’s 18 and, like you said, welcome to the real world.”

They’ll always have the climb. Minor and Kiper had managed Manitou Springs in under an hour, even as every breath became a chore, even when it felt like a pair of baby grand piano had been dropped on their chests.

“I’m going to go back,” Minor gasped.

“No,” Kiper countered. “If we’ve got to crawl up, we’re going up this.”

They made it, the pair of them, on two legs.

“I’d wanted to prove how tough she was,” Kiper said. “And that she could do something that was different than she’d ever done before.”

Saturday? Same song, different verse. As the cameras rolled and the records fell like rain, someone brought up Manitou again. Minor smiled.

“That was hard,” she laughed. “Harder than any race ever.”

Even this one?

“It feels the same,” Minor said. “Being on top of the mountain, being on top of the podium? It’s kind of the same feeling.”

You’ve got big shoes, lady. The biggest.

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