On an atypically cold and rainy day in Grand Junction, four members of the Steamboat Springs track and field team surprised even themselves by qualifying for the 2003 Class 4A State Track Meet in Denver next weekend.
Points scored by Hannah Gary, Missy Chotvacs, Jennifer Hooper and Tyler O'Leary highlighted what was a successful Friday for the Sailor boys and girls at the regional track meet at Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction.
Hooper placed second in the 3200 meters with an unofficial time of 12 minutes, 13 seconds. O'Leary followed up Hooper's strong run with his own, placing third in 10:26 in the 3200. Both distance runners took more than 30 seconds off their personal-best times.
Chotvacs leapt a personal best of 33 feet, 1/2 inch to finish third in the triple jump.
Gary cleared 4-8 to tie for third in the high jump.
Only three individual athletes or relay teams from each track and field regional event are eligible to automatically qualify for the state meet, so Gary and a Rifle high jumper had to jump again for the third spot.
Rifle's athlete did not show for the jump-off, and Gary went ahead and cleared 4-10 to earn the third and final spot from the regional meet. The Rifle jumper already had prequalified, Gary said.
"I wasn't expecting to go to state this year," she added. "I went out for track because it was fun, and it was going to get me ready for volleyball."
Jessica Peters will join Gary in the state high jump field after prequalifying earlier this year. Peters did not jump at regionals.
Peters did, however, leave her impression on the fans and athletes gathered in the rain and wind at Stocker Stadium in the events in which she did participate.
The freshman qualified for today's finals in the 100, 200 and 400 meters, posting the top times in both the 200 and 400 preliminaries.
Peters' blazing 58.46 in the 400 also was a school record. The previous record was 58.8.
"I was dead at the end," Peters said, thankful she had a day to recover before running the final.
She already has qualified for state in the 400 but wants to post a top time to enhance her seeding at state.
Joining Peters in today's finals are Ryan Proffitt and Tyler Johnson in the 100, Johnson in the 200 and Matt Haltom in the 300 hurdles.
Haltom finished the preliminary 100 hurdles in ninth place, .02 seconds out of today's finals, so he was determined to make the finals in the 300.
"I just want to go to state a lot this year," Haltom, a senior, said.
Proffitt and Johnson share the same feelings as Haltom. Both sprinters entered the regionals with times they thought would be competitive with the other 4A runners at the meet.
Impressive showings from both Proffitt and Johnson in the 100 and another strong run from Johnson in the 200 have set up intriguing finals today.
For one, Proffitt and Johnson ran side-by-side for most of the season and that didn't change Friday. Placed in the same heat and in the lane neighboring Johnson, Proffitt finished in 11.42. Johnson finished in 11.49.
And it's probably fair that Proffitt beat Johnson, considering Johnson nearly missed his cue to get to his blocks.
A little embarrassed, Johnson said he thought the 4A girls needed to run another heat, so he was talking. Proffitt went to the start line, looked for his teammate and didn't see him.
"I had to go get him," Proffitt said.
Johnson didn't miss the announcement in the 200. Though he stumbled a bit out of his blocks, he posted a 23.03 and will be in today's finals.
While results posted by Proffitt, Johnson and Peters are not surprising, strong showings from Haltom and from state qualifiers Gary, Chotvacs, Hooper and O'Leary left even those individuals taken aback.
Just ask them.
"This is really a big deal to me," Hooper said with rosy cheeks and a big smile. "Usually I slow down in the last lap. It sinks in and all that pain is coming back. I didn't let the pain get to me (Friday)."
Helping push Hooper and O'Leary through eight laps in the final event of the day were the screams and applause from the other members of the Steamboat team, large in numbers and talent for really the first time all season.
In addition to the points scored by the state qualifiers, Chris Dombey, Shelley Dunlop and Lauren Lightfoot did their part in helping the team reach for a group title by placing in the long jump, shot put and 3200 meters, respectively.
Vacations, injuries, college prep tests or other commitments have prevented the Sailors from fielding their entire team at any other previous meet this year.
Five Steamboat athletes already are heading to state. Today, the team looks to use the momentum to add more.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com