Don't be alarmed if you encounter the Steamboat Springs boys soccer team working out in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness during the next few weeks.
A herd of elk didn't seem to care earlier this summer.
"They just ran right through us," senior Bjorn Utu said.
In the 10 months since the 2002 season ended, the Sailors have engaged in plenty of team activities designed to increase unity and physical fitness. They hope the efforts will help them recapture a league title as they head into a 2003 schedule that opens Aug. 28 with the Alexander Dawson Tournament.
Highlighting the list was a recent trip to San Diego where the Steamboat boys conditioned, played three exhibitions and discovered each other's annoying habits after more than a week of traveling and sleeping in close quarters.
Team-building activities aren't uncommon with coach Rob Bohlmann's squads. What was unusual was the offseason focus from this year's returning varsity players. All eight seniors remember the 2002 season more for the traditions broken -- failing to win the Western Slope league title and losing to Moffat County for the first time -- than anything else.
They don't want either to happen in their senior campaign.
"The eight of us have high expectations for this season," senior Devin Borvansky said.
Borvansky, Utu, Dusty Atkinson, Austin Ross, Andy Comeau, Daniel Barney, Sean Carlson and Harry Packer represent the senior class, and it's obvious from watching them interact with each other and their younger teammates that they have embraced their roles as leaders.
In Bohlmann's conditioning circuit, even a drill's winning team runs. The losing team just runs more. But the 2003 squad doesn't seem to mind the extra work.
"That's what two-a-days are for," Atkinson said.
Bohlmann said the Western Slope league could shape up to be the most competitive it has been in years. Glenwood Springs, last year's champion, Moffat County and Battle Mountain figure to be Steamboat's primary competitors for the league title.
Though it's too early to put an emphasis on goals, the large number of returning players have left little secret as to what their primary goal will be during 2003.
"It's an unspoken thing," Bohlmann said. "But it will be a top priority to be at the top spot in league."
A key for the Sailors is replacing former goalie Kelly Carlson. A senior last season, Carlson provided stability and experience in net. The same won't be true this year. As a sort of forced volunteer, Comeau purchased $60 goalie gloves, making, in his words, "a commitment" to the position.
Comeau spent the indoor soccer season in net taking hard, quick shots on goal to get his head, hands and feet on the same circuit once again.
This year's Steamboat team may not possess a high-scoring attack, but opponents will have to work hard to win. The team's competitive nature, Bohlmann said, is its strength at this point.
The Sailors open the season Aug. 28 and begin their league season Sept. 11 at Cedaredge. The playoffs, should Steamboat get in, open Oct. 25 with state set for the opening weekend of November.
"We want to go as far as possible," Sean Carlson said.