Wednesday, October 9, 2002
Steamboat Springs The road to the state championship will take the members of the Steamboat Springs cross country team down the flat, 5-kilometer course in Palisade.
"I personally love flat courses," Steamboat's Jennifer Hooper said. "I like going fast better than chugging up hills. So I think I will do well on this course."
But that regional race will not take place until Oct. 19 and the Sailors don't want to look too far ahead.
Or do they?
This Friday, the local runners will have the chance to preview that route, hopefully picking up a few tips along the way, during the final regular season meet of the year which will also be held in Palisade.
"This meet will be a good indication of what we will see at the regional," Sailor Laura Philip said. "There will be a lot of teams that we haven't seen this year."
Coach John Smith is hoping the experience his team gets at this meet will help the following week when the runners return to the same place, and the same course, to compete for the right to race at the state championship meet.
That event, which will feature Colorado's best high school runners, will take place Oct. 26 on the campus of Kent Denver.
"It's dead flat," Smith said of the Palisade course. "There will be some fast times, but this course doesn't capture the true spirit of cross country physically or mentally."
Smith thinks the course will favor the track athlete, rather than the runner who prefers the off-road experience that is most often associated with cross country running. Even Hooper, who said she prefers the faster, flatter terrain, thinks her team would fare better on a course with more hills.
Despite his feelings about the Palisade course, Smith knows just how important the next two weeks will be for his team.
"This will be a big test for our runners," Smith said. "I think it will give them a pretty good idea of what they will need to do at the regional to make it to state."
Steamboat is coming off of a solid showing in Aspen last weekend. The girls team finished fourth at the Chris Severly Invitational. The meet was won by Moffat County. Lewis Palmer placed second and Aspen was third in the field of 15 teams.
Hooper led the girls with a ninth-place finish. Her time was 22 minutes, 9 seconds. Hooper's teammate Laura Philip was 22nd at 22:41; Lauren Lightfoot was 25th at 22:51 and Sarah MacCarthy wrapped things up for Steamboat in 26th with a time of 22:58.
"I was pretty happy," Hooper said. "I wanted to finish sub-20, but the hill at the end kind of caught me."
Smith said he was pleased with the way all of his runners placed and was particularly excited about the way his girls team stuck together on a challenging Aspen course with lots of tough climbs.
"This is the best team we've had in 10 years," Smith said.
While the boys didn't fare quite as well in the team results, Smith said he got several top individual finishes.
Mike Gleason led the team in 33rd place at 18:55. He was followed by Sam Tarrant in 38th at 19:01; Bjorn Arnesson in 48th at 19:27; Eddie Van Baak in 60th at 20:13. Marty Smith was the final Sailor runner to cross the finish line in 61st place at 20:13.01.
Smith said the team would continue to train hard through Friday's meet, before beginning to taper prior to the regional.
The regional is the most important meet of the season without a good showing there, the runners will not qualify to run at the state meet the following weekend.