Ask any of the runners, and they will tell you it's the hardest course in the state.
Howelsen Hill, the site of Steamboat Springs High School's only home cross country meet of the season, with a course that roams up and down 38 hills, tests young runners like no other. On Saturday morning, home-course advantage helped the Sailors girls and boys teams come out on top, edging out second-place Chatfield High School.
Tyler O'Leary, a Steamboat senior, won the boys race and, though he admitted the course was tough, he said his familiarity with it gave him the drive to finish first.
"I felt alright before the race, and I felt strong by the time the race started," said O'Leary, who finished in 19 minutes, 1 second.
Christy Savery of Aspen High School won the girls race with room to spare, and said even though the course was difficult, she liked it.
"I think it's the most fun race," Savery said afterward, appearing to be only slightly winded by her 22:23 effort. "I like the hills. There are a lot of them in Aspen, so I'm used to them."
Steamboat Springs' Jennifer Hooper and Sarah MacCarthy said the Sailors' cross country team had been training on hills a lot recently, so they were ready for this race. But MacCarthy wondered if they had trained too hard during the week, because she was tired for the race and didn't do as well as she anticipated.
"Coach told us this race was more of a preparation for other races like regional and state, so it was hard to find the motivation to really push for this race," MacCarthy said.
Even without that motivation, the Steamboat girls won the race.
"Our performance today was phenomenal," Steamboat cross country coach John Smith said.
Tom Herter of Meeker finished second in the boys race. It was the first time he ran this course, but he said hills are his strength and he used that strength to blow past other runners who lagged on the climbs.
"I just kept going fast over the top," Herter said. "On the hills, most everybody slowed down, but Steamboat has some strong runners."
Complete results were not available by press time.
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