One jump for a state title. A height Noah Cvetnic had hit over the high jump bar dozens and dozens of times.
This one seemed different.
Not the stage the Chaska senior was at. Cvetnic was high jump champion at the Hamline Elite Meet at the St. Paul university in April. A podium finisher in 2018 as well.
Instead it was mechanics. And when Cvetnic got his steps down right, well, he was a state champion.
"It was about finding out what the problem was. I think I was starting a bit too far back. I moved my mark forward about a foot and I was able to make my jump," Cvetnic said.
It was the first state title for Chaska track since 2009, the last of three high jump championships from Derek Jerde.
"It was one of the greatest feelings you could ever feel. To see all the smiles, see all the faces in the crowd, it put a smile on my face to make my coaches proud," Cvetnic said.
Cvetnic was the only competitor of the 15 in the field to top the bar at six feet, seven inches. One of four to reach the height, after two misses, the future Gopher sealed his first state title on his final attempt.
He made one more jump for good measure at six feet, eight inches, before attempting a competition-best 6-11 three times. With all eyes from the grandstand on Cvetnic, a slow clap among competitors and coaches started, Cvetnic gave it his best, coming up short.
"They're really not your competitors, but by the end they're your friends, your family. They push you to be your best," Cvetnic said.
The seven-foot, one inch, mark, set by Chaska's Jon Markuson, lives another day.
"It's a really high height. It's tough to get there, but it's something that has also pushed me to work for. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get there, but I hope to someday," Cvetnic said.
Cvetnic, third in 2018, committed to the University of Minnesota in January. A lifelong dream come true.
"I've always wanted to be a Gopher. Most of my family were Gophers. It's a great feeling to be going to the U of M now," he said.
Lilly Halvorson was born in 2001. Some 15 years before, Karen Ryan, the 1987 Chaska High School Outstanding Female Athlete, posted a team record in the 400 meters in 57.13 seconds in the 1986 track and field season.
Halvorson, who just finished her junior year at Chaska, was part of two school-record performances at the Class AA State Meet June 7-8 at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Halvorson crossed the finish line in the 400 meters in 57.08 seconds in the preliminaries. She ran the anchor on a podium-finishing 4x200 relay that twice broke the record from the 2018 team.
"It was a pretty cool feeling. Beating something that has lasted so long. It felt like a reward for all of the hard work put in this season," Halvorson said.
Halvorson, seeded fourth in the 400 finals on June 8, used a bit different strategy at state with her race, getting out fast and hoping to hang on throughout. She felt it was her only shot at winning a state title.
"Championship season, I just went out as fast as I could and finish with all I got. ... It was an honor to race with them, and to keep up with them," Halvorson said.
A time of 57.09, just one hundredth of a second off her preliminary time, placed her sixth in the finals. Four runners ran under 57 seconds including champion Claire Howell of Moorhead in 55.39 seconds.
"I got one year left. We'll see you next year," Halvorson said of the prospect of moving up the podium as a senior.
Halvorson's exciting day began in the 4x200 relay. Seeded second behind Minnetonka, the third-fastest preliminary time, Chaska continued to lower the school record in the finals.
From senior Keilah Montoya to junior Judea Montoya to senior Megan Jeurissen to Halvorson, Chaska was fast. Like, really fast. Like one minute, 42.44 seconds.
"It feels surreal," Jeurissen said. "Last year we ran 1:45 and we were able to get into the top-nine. This year the top-nine was 1:43, so it was a really fast field. I just was really excited to see all of our hard work pay off in the end."
"It's my last year and I just wanted to run as fast as I could. And I didn't tell Judea slow, so that was good," said Keilah Montoya. "For me, starting, all the pressure is on me I feel. If I don't have a good start, I feel like I'm letting the team down. I just try to get us as far ahead as I can."
With three-fourths of a ninth-place state team from 2018 returning to the track for Chaska, the makings of a really good thing started a year ago.
"Three of us were here last year, and to have the opportunity for my sister to be a part of this team, run here with her, it was amazing. Her times last year were really quick, so we knew with her on the team we would be very good this season," Judea Montoya said.
Minnetonka defended its title in the relay, posting a time of 1:42.08. Red Wing was seven hundredths of a second faster than the Hawks.
"None of us slacked at practice. We were always working on things to make us better. That's a big reason why we were standing up there," Judea Montoya said.
After setting relay records in 2018 and 2019, are Judea and Lilly looking for two teammates to break it again in 2020?
"We hope it stays there for a while," Jeurissen said of the relay record.
"We have a hard-working team, so you never know. It would be cool to have the Montoya sisters on the record board for a while," Judea Montoya said.
ONE LAST RUN
John Starkey played in a number of varsity high school hockey games. Countless cross country meets, including state meet appearances in 2017 and 2018. And dozens and dozens of track and field races, a three-time state finalist in the 800 meters.
Down to one more event, two more laps around the track for Chaska, Starkey gave it his all.
He crossed the finish line in fourth place, a time of 1:55.48.
"After the first 400, this was the first time I tried to push, staying withing striking distance of the leader. I put a little more into the beginning of my second lap. That was the major difference in race strategy," Starkey said.
Starkey, third in the 2018 state finals, a personal-best time of 1:54.23, saw defending 800 champion AJ Green of Eastview sprint to a large lead in the first lap. The natural reaction was try to keep up.
That early pace -- Green was just off a state record in 1:49.93 -- left Starkey, second through 600 meters, finishing fourth.
"Especially the first lap, it pushes you to stay competitive, stay connected with the leader," Starkey said. "I think my first split was a 55. It's nothing super special. I ran a 54-second split at sections. Overall, I felt good the first lap."
"The time isn't what I wanted it to be. Nor the place. But the effort was, especially the last 120, last 150 meters. I felt I pushed as hard as I could. I just came up a little short of where I wanted to be," he added.
Starkey isn't done running. He heads to West Point on the Hudson River in the state of New York. Chanhassen's Torin Christianson, close friend from cross country and track, also is committed to the U.S. Military Academy.
"Six years, it went by pretty fast. Now it's time to prepare for the next part of my life like the rest of the seniors," Starkey said. "It's definitely exciting to go to a new program, new experiences. I learned a lot from past upperclassmen and underclassmen that came up with me as well. It's been fun."