Steamboat Springs For the members of the Steamboat Springs track team, the beginning of the season generally involves a lot of hard labor.
On Thursday, while the boys and girls relay teams were practicing their handoffs, some other members of the team were diligently shoveling snow off the inside and outside lanes of the high school's track.
One of the shovelers asked a male spectator if it was too late to sign up for the Sailors baseball team. He appeared to be joking, although he probably wished he had been running laps rather than cleaning up the sloppy track.
Like any other season, the Sailors runners get off to a late start because of the weather conditions in Steamboat around this time of year.
But on Thursday, the boys 400-meter relay team showed signs of greatness, despite not having practiced outdoors for most of the preseason.
"Last year, we had a poor showing at states," said Ryan Wattles, who was one of the runners on the Sailors 2000 state-qualifying 400-meter relay team.
"We want to at least hold our own at state this year," he said.
Wattles appeared to be in top form Thursday, despite having knee surgery Dec. 12 because of a football injury he suffered last season.
Wattles and his teammates took turns handing off the stick and jetting down the lane in preparation for their opening meet against Delta, which was on Saturday.
Joining Wattles on the relay team are Kyle Svendsen, Derek Haverley and Patrick McMahon.
Svendsen and McMahon also were on the 2000 state-qualifying relay team, along with Ryan Johnson, who will compete in the long jump and high jump this season.
Rachel Starr, who specializes in the 400-meter dash and 800-meter run, is the only other returning state-qualifier for the Sailors. She placed No. 7 at the 2000 state meet in the 400-meter dash.
Starr, who was practicing with the girls' 400-meter relay team Thursday, said her finish last year at states is a big confidence builder.
"That was sort of what made me realize that I could run a lot faster and a lot better this year," Starr said.
The Sailors have a strong team this season with a lot of talented newcomers, Starr said.
About 40 athletes are out for the team, including senior newcomer Haverley who will compete in the 400-meter relay and 100-meter dash.
Andy Reust, who replaced Mike Hill as head coach this season, said Jessica Flores and Ian Ramsay have done extremely well in preseason training.
Flores will compete in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles and the 1600-meter relay, and Ramsay will compete in the 1500-meter run and 800-meter run.
Stewart Beall and Wes Adams, who were on the 2000 Sailors football team with Svendsen, Wattles and Haverley, also are out for track.
Sailors assistant coach Scott Lewer, who works with the sprinters and hurdlers, said there has been a major improvement by all of the returners.
"We'll have a lot better team than last year," Lewer said. "Both the boys and girls really have a lot of promise."
The Sailors have seven meets scheduled before the regionals, which run May 11 and 12 in Grand Junction.
Svendsen, who is a senior, will compete in three events, including the long jump and triple jump and the 400-meter relay. Sean Berdan will do the long jump and triple jump.