It's been three years since a Pueblo High School runner won a state championship.
Denzel Woods is hoping to become the next one.
The Pueblo senior ran a 49.34 400 just more than two weeks before last year's state championship meet. It set a personal best and was the second-best mark in Division II at the time.
"It's in my mind all the time," Woods said. "I even have it written down along with Pueblo's track records with my name, and where it's at right now."
However, Woods ran a 50.42 at state, finishing fifth. At the Willie Williams Classic last month, he ran a season-best 49.36 prelim but a 50.16 in the finals and finished second. The last Pueblo track and field state champ was Jerri-Lynn Kincade, who won the girls 400 meters in 58.60 seconds in 2010.
Woods, who is nursing strained quadriceps, will be running the 100 and 800 at today's Mario Castro Invitational hosted by Sunnyside.
Coach Armando Gonzalez is hoping Woods qualifies for state in the 800 since he already did so in the 400. However, Gonzalez is hoping to see Woods peak at state.
"We set out a goal last year to hit 49 and he did it," Gonzalez said. "This year we set it at 48. Hopefully at state he can do it."
Here are three things to know about Woods as he gets set for the final month of the season:
1. It runs in the family. Woods' father, Andre, ran cross-country and track at the UA. He was a cross-country All-American for the Wildcats in 1985 and finished 13th in the 1985 Pac-10 cross-country championships. His older sisters also ran cross-country.
"My mom was always athletic, so she told me, 'You have to do a sport,'" Woods said. "I always found track to be relieving."
2. He has a hidden talent. Woods is among the state's best sprinters, but Gonzalez, who has been coaching him the past three years, believes he is more of a natural distance runner.
"If he accepts that his talent is in the long distance, there is no telling what that kid could do," said Gonzalez. "He could have been one of the top cross-country runners in the state if he decided to run cross-country."
3. He keeps things loose. Woods is very competitive and focused on the track, but he doesn't mind cracking a few jokes as he's warming up or lining up.
"I like having fun with people right before a race," Woods said. "If you see me before my track running, I'm joking around with the guys I'm competing against like we're just going out on the night."
If you go
• What: Mario Castro Invitational
• Where: Sunnyside High School
• When: Today, all day
• Who: 24 teams from around Southern Arizona