Steamboat Springs Whenever Steamboat Springs runner Rachel Starr steps onto a track she is shooting for a personal-best time.
Last weekend, her personal best earned her first place in the region in the 400-meter run as she edged out Moffat County's Laurel Mortensen for the title with a time of 59.85. Next week she is hoping for another personal best to boost her to a state title in one of three events.
"The finals were really fast," Starr said of the regional 400-meter run finals. "Nobody was holding back, we all just took off."
Starr is hoping she can maintain that all-out attitude when she travels to Jeffco Stadium this Friday with 10 of her teammates who also made the state qualifying cut. This is the second-straight year that Starr will compete in the final track meet of the season.
The Steamboat Springs middle distance runner is scheduled to compete in the 400- and 800-meter runs and also the 1,600-meter relay.
"I think it will be a lot different than last year," Starr said. "Now I will know what is happening and I expect to go out a lot faster."
Sailors head coach Andy Reust said Starr has to be one of the favorites in the state to place in her middle-distance events. But he was quick to add he thinks that all 11 of the Sailors at the meet have a solid chance at placing.
"We are coming out of one of the toughest regions in the state," Reust said. "I'm confident that all of our athletes can place at state."
Starr will be joined by jumper Jennifer Stanford who placed second in the high jump with an effort of 5 foot, 1 inch and thrower Brienna Combs who placed third with a toss of 111-8. Steamboat's 1,600-meter relay team also qualified.
Combs was competing in her first meet of the season after just being cleared to throw after an injury sidelined her most of the season.
Jennifer Stanford had her best jump ever in a meet on Saturday to qualify for state.
Steamboat's 1,600-meter relay team of Jessica Flores, MacKenzie Little, Lennae Jenkins and Starr also qualified for the event with a personal best time of 4:17.58. The squad was second to Moffat County in the event.
The boys team will be lead by solid showings from the 400- and 800-meter relay teams.
The squad of Ryan Wattles, Derek Haverley, Kyle Svendsen, Patrick McMahon and Ryan Wattles punched their tickets for state with a second (44.99) in the 400-meter relay and a second (1:33.58) in the 800-meter relay as well.
"They have the speed to place at state," Reust said. "They had average handoffs at regional and they finished second. If we can work on that, who knows where they can finish."
Other state qualifying finishes for the Sailors came in the triple jump where Svendsen's leap of 41-7 earned him third place. Luke Nykamp is also headed to Denver after placing second in the discus with a throw of 131-11.
"I feel like I did pretty well," Nykamp said. "It wasn't a personal best, but it was only the second time I've thrown over 130 feet."
Several Steamboat athletes came within a heartbeat of making the state cut, but fell just short.
On the girls side, Flores was fourth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 1:56.15. and Jenkins was fourth in the 400-meter run with a time of 1:02.57. Steamboat's 800-meter medley team also just missed the cut with a fourth-place time of 1:56.15. The top three finishers go on to state.
On the boys side, Ian Ramsay had a heartbreaking weekend as he placed fourth in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:36.71 and fifth in the 800-meter run at 2:00.41. Both times were within a fraction of a second off of the prequalifying time required to qualify for the state meet.
McMahon surprised the field in the 400-meter run at the regionals and almost qualified in the event by placing fourth with a time of 52.60.
Other Sailors scoring points at the regional meet were Comb's (sixth in the shot put), Lindsay Stanford (eighth in the high jump), and the Steamboat girls 400-meter and 800-meter relay teams. Those squads, comprised of Jennifer Cantway, Kim Chotvacs, Valerie Finch, and Carrie Good, placed fifth in the 400 and sixth in the 800 with personal-best times.
Other top finishes included Wattles' fifth place finish in the 200 and Svendsen's seventh. Ryan Johnson was eighth in the long jump and triple jump as Jeremy Hays placed seventh in the 800-meter run.
Nykamp recorded an eighth in the shot put and Wattles was eighth in the 100-meter dash. Steamboat's 1,600-meter relay team, which included McMahon, Hays, Zach Forcum and Ramsay came in sixth at the regional.
"There were a couple of disappointments," Reust said. "But all of our runners turned in personal bests. I'm proud of the way they competed and I couldn't have asked for anything more."