Steamboat Springs As a freshman, Steamboat Springs runner Tara Wernig entered the state cross-country championships with no idea of what to expect.
But that was last year.
This Saturday, Wernig and the members of the Steamboat Springs girls team will return to the campus of Kent Denver with a better grip on the 5-kilometer course that will test the top runners in the state. Wernig and her Sailors teammates will be among the field of title hopefuls.
"Last year I winged it," Wernig said.
This year, the sophomore runner will head to the Denver meet with a better idea of what the competition will be like. She will also have a plan.
"I think I will pace with one of the Moffat County runners and do the best I can do," Wernig said.
Wernig led the Steamboat girls team last weekend at Delta's Confluence Park with a seventh-place finish. She is one of seven members of the girls team that qualified as a team.
"It's a good course with lots of rolling hills and a variety of terrain," Sailors head coach John Smith said of the state championship course.
This will be the eighth straight year the Sailors girls team will make the trip to the state meet. The boys qualified five runners at the regional in Delta, but as a team the squad finished fifth one spot out.
Because Steamboat has five boys runners who made the cut, the team will be eligible to score as a team and even win a state championship if the runners rise to the occasion.
"I have never had a team perform so well," Smith said of the Sailors. "Our girls performed above and beyond the call and the boys were simply amazing."
Wernig's seventh-place finish led the Sailors girls team. She completed the Delta course in a time of 20 minutes, 14 seconds.
Steamboat's Jennifer Hooper placed eighth with a time of 20:22 and Lauren Lightfoot took 11th with a time of 20:56.
Tess Hottenroth finished in 22nd place at 21:43 and Laura Phillip was 24th at 21:56. Those five runners rounded out the Sailors' top five at the regional meet. Other finishes included Steamboat's Julie Wernig, who came in 29th, and Emily Hines, who placed 32nd.
The girls' regional in Delta was dominated, as expected, by the defending state champion Moffat County Bulldogs, who netted just 36 points to win the meet. Steamboat was second with 72, Montrose was third with 78 and Palisade came in fourth with 87 points.
Senior Nathan Proper led the Steamboat boys in 15th place with a time of 17:44. He was followed by sophomore Tyler O'Leary, who placed 17th with a time of 17:48, and freshman Mike Gleason, who placed 18th at 17:49.
Steamboat's David Manthei ran to a 20th-place finish with a time of 17:54, and Eddie VanBaak punched his card for a state appearance after coming in 25th with a time of 18:14.
The boys just missed qualifying as a team by one spot, placing fifth in the regional standings. Glenwood Springs won the meet with 38 points, Montrose was second at 63, Palisade came in third with 66 points and Moffat County got the final team spot with 76 points. Steamboat finished in fifth with 95 points.
All of the runners will head to the state meet this Saturday on the Kent Denver campus. The boys' 4A race is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. and the girls' 4A race will take place at noon. The state championships of the 3A, 4A and 5A races will be held at the same location.