In 2012, Chad Robran knocked on doors throughout the Rockford School District to solicit support for a $27 million bond.
When it passed, the bond provided athletes with a new turf field, a new track and a multifunctional strength and conditioning facility.
On Sunday afternoon, some of those community members will gather to praise Robran and the girls' track and field team, which made school history by winning the Class 1A championship while representing a return on the bond investment.
The first state championship team in the school's 165-year history will be honored along a 45-minute parade route from Lions Riverside Park to the Rockford Community Center. The celebration begins at 4:30 p.m.
"I think our community is thirsty for this kind of success," Robran said. "And the fact that all this is for track and field? I'm all for it."
Rockford High School is located about 26 miles west of downtown Minneapolis, at the edge of Hennepin County. Rocket Stadium sits atop a hill overlooking the Crow River valley. Ten of the athletes who call it home competed at the state meet, and eight of them contributed to Rockford's 46 team points, four ahead of runner-up Annandale.
When Robran, a former women's track and field coach at the University of St. Thomas, took the Rockford job in 2012, he sought to bring a college-type atmosphere to the fledgling high school boys' and girls' programs.
A year before Robran began reigniting the Rockets, the track was condemned for all public events. Just 45 boys and girls took part in the sport. This spring, the number swelled to 120 athletes, many of whom grew up benefitting from the school's improved facilities.
Strength in numbers helped secure the Rockets' historic championship. The 4x800-meter relay gave a hint of things to come with a solid showing on the first day of the meet in the first event on the track. Shrugging off their ninth seed, the foursome of Kylee Sauers, Natasha James, Maggie Thompson and Jane West ran their best time of the season and placed sixth.
"That kickstarted us," Robran said. "What those girls did said, 'We're here, too, and this is going to be a team thing."
The Rockets' 4x100 and 4x200 relays excelled. Sara Byers, Aliyah Robran, Elise Biorn and Cassia Cady placed third in the 4x200. The same group also won the 4x100 in a school record time of 49.88 seconds.
The meet's finals-only format this year meant no qualifying heats. Rockford's runners made their lone attempts count.
"I never saw them flinch," Robran said.
Throwers Jayden Lark (shot put) and Hannah Stedman (discus) also competed well, posting marks near their season bests.
Truth is, Robran said, Rockford seemed better equipped to make history in 2020 after placing third the previous season. Losing spring sports to the coronavirus pandemic meant saying farewell to a pair of solid seniors and left questions about the Rockets' place among the elite.
"For these girls to win without them was pretty amazing," Robran said.
Now that his girls' track and field team kicked down the door, Robran envisions more Rockford success at state tournaments.
"We've got a lot of multi-sport athletes," Robran said. "I hope this success we had in track and field is inspiring and transformational, something our kids can take into their other sports."