Coaching 111 middle school athletes is hard work, but Ken Brenner wished the season wasn't over.
The Steamboat Springs Middle School Track and Field team had a successful year, but Brenner is confident the Sailors were just starting to reach their potential when the schedule ended.
Snow prevented Steamboat from hosting a meet this year.
In the events the Sailors were able to take part in at Meeker, Rangely, Craig and Summit County, Brenner said he was happy with what he saw. He was equally impressed with the dedication his seventh- and eighth-grade athletes displayed, even in practice.
"As for the team, I was pleased with the level of effort from the kids through all the different age groups," the co-coach said. "There are a lot of real talented kids. The sad thing is it's such a short season, and they were just starting to get a feel for competition."
Two individuals, however, had remarkable seasons highlighted by new school records.
Patricia Henderson, an eighth-grader, set new school records in the 100 and 200 meters.
Of course, the person who held the old school records was Jessica Peters, who recently won a state title in the 400 as a freshman.
"That's cool that we've got girls coming through the high school in back-to-back seasons," Brenner said of Henderson and Peters.
Jay Hanley also had a strong season for Steamboat's middle school team, but he is just in seventh grade.
Hanley set new school marks in the 100 and shot put. Competing in both those events, let alone set records, isn't common, even in middle school, Brenner said.
Hanley threw the shot 40 feet, 7.5 inches, breaking a 28-year old record of 35-4 held by Joe Ramunno. Ramunno went on to win state titles in the shot and discus in high school.
"He's got a lot of power, and I don't complicate it," Brenner said. "The first meet we went to, Jay comes up to me and said, 'Coach, you never taught me how to spin. All the other guys spin.' I said, 'Jay, don't worry about it.' He just threw it and broke the school record that day throwing 36 feet. Then he had confidence, and the next meet was where he threw over 40 feet."
Brenner said Henderson and Hanley could have broken other records given more time to compete.
"Both kids are real focused and real likeable kids, too," Brenner said."
The hardest part about the season was finding a way to use more than 100 athletes in competitions. Students from the middle school, Christian Heritage School, and Lowell Whiteman Primary all took part in this year's season.
However, the number of athletes out for track was more of a positive than a negative, Brenner said. It provided for strong competition and a fun, social atmosphere.
Both coaches at the middle school and high school level want to build on the success both teams had this season by offering summerlong practices for kids who want to improve.
"This will be a real plus and some of these kids would really benefit from this," Brenner said.
Helping coach the middle school track team this season was co-coach Alexa Slaunwhite, Peggy Mulvihill and Christy Kiley. Volunteer coaches also helped out, but Brenner said he would love to have more parent involvement next season, particularly with the high participation numbers.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com