Denver As Steamboat Springs senior Rachel Starr headed down the gently sloping hill that led to the finish line of the 2000 Colorado State Cross Country Championships, the realization that this was her final prep race was hitting home.
"Sure it was in the back of my mind," Starr said after the race. "It was pushing me the whole way."
But after crossing the finish line, Starr was happy. She had finished the 3.1-mile race set amid the gently rolling hills, grassy pastures and wooded areas that surround the Kent Denver School in a time of 20 minutes, 26 seconds and averaged 6:34 per mile. She placed 15th in the field of more than 200 runners. Palisade's Natalie Hughes won the race in a time of 18:59. She was followed by Cassie Ficken of Conifer at 19:01 and Jenna Bimbi of Pueblo Centennial at 19:20.
"I set a goal to beat the Moffat County girl and I did that," Starr said. "So that was good."
Starr came in just in front of Moffat County runner Stephanie Hurd, who placed 16th with a time of 20:29. In fact, Starr beat all of the Moffat County runners, except for Danielle Brown who placed sixth with a time of 19:41. The Bulldogs dominated the conference all season and dominated the state meet, winning the 4A team title with 69 points. Mullen was second with 91 and Cheyenne Mountain finished third with 123 points.
Sailors coach John Smith said his team has been chasing the Bulldogs squad all season and he wasn't surprised to hear that Moffat County had taken the crown.
The Steamboat girls placed 12th with 345 points in the field of the top 20 4A schools from around the state.
Following Starr in the results was freshman Tara Wernig who placed 59th at 21:45. Jessica Philip and Laura Philip tied for the 100th spot with a time of 22:31. Emily Hines came in 143rd at 24:13; Lindsay Stanford was 155 at 25:33; and Bryn Weaver came in 156th at 25:46.
The only senior on the team was Starr. The remaining members of the squad are all juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
"This was a great effort by our runners," Smith said. "It was a phenomenal race for all of the runners. Tara's finish was outstanding for a freshman."
The Steamboat boys team hit a bump in the road when top runner Cody Firestone sprained his ankle in the first mile of the course. The Sailors finished 20th in the team standings, but Smith was still happy with the way his team fared after losing its top runner.
"It's a tough break," Smith said. "But these things happen in cross country. I was happy to see the other runners pick up the slack."
Matt Hayne was the top boys runner for Steamboat Springs in 69th at 18:42. Daniel Ward was 73rd at 18:48 and Tyler O'Leary was 91st with a time of 19:05.
Eddie Van Baak came in 95th at 19:13; Kyle Jespherson was 96th at 19:19; and Ben MacCarthy came in 135th at 20:56.
"It was crazy," Hayne said of the state meet. "There were so many runners out there and the course was pretty tight."
Hayne is a senior, but this was his first year to run cross country and his first state meet. He was impressed by the hundreds of people who showed up at the race's end to cheer the runners on as they crossed the finish line.
"There were so many people," Hayne said. "I didn't expect that."
Ward also was impressed with the race, but it didn't catch him off guard since it was the junior runner's third trip to the state meet. This year, Ward had to battle the effects of bronchitis as well as the other runners who were out on the course.
"It was hard," Ward said of the course. "It doesn't get any easier it's always hard."
Lewis-Palmer topped the boys pack with 89 team points. It was followed by Cheyenne Mountain with 136 and Evergreen with 139. Moffat County placed 17th with 326 points.
Bryan Dillon of Sterling won the boys race with a time of 16:42. Liberty's Joel Hamilton was second at 16:46 and James Sandoval of Widefield came in third with a time of 16:50.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org