With practice as his only gauge, Soroco track and field coach Gary Heide didn't know what the girls' relays would bring to the competitive table.
At the Eagle Valley Invitational on Saturday, all Heide did was run the girls in relays to get a sense of where they were in the early season, and he left the all-weather track pleased with what he saw.
The Hayden track and field team opened the 2004 season at the Eagle Valley Invitational on Saturday. The boys placed 15th out of 20 teams, while the girls came in 17th out of 19 teams. The Tigers 400-meter relay team of Evan Hilling, Kenny Gehrman, Tyson Letlow and Jesse Drennan placed fourth with a time of 46.27 seconds. The same boys teamed up in the 800-meter relay and took eighth in 1:38.02. Hilling placed sixth in the 200 with a time of 23.27, and Tyson Sweetser placed seventh in the discus with a throw of 124 feet, 5 inches. On the girls' side, Lauren Branstetter finished sixth in the 400 with a time of 63.32. She took seventh in the 200 with a 27.69, as well.
Heide wrote down a preliminary time of 2 minutes for Soroco's 800-meter relay team and didn't bother to time the fast heat, assuming the girls would finish behind the leaders. In the slower heat, the Rams blew everyone away, and when Heide saw the final time of 1:53.79, he was beside himself.
"I don't know where that came from," Heide said. "They announced we had first place, and they won that race by three seconds. Holy cow!"
The team -- Melissa Roy, Nichole Wilson, Kyla Schmidt and Karli Babcock took third in the 400-meter relay with a time of 53.8. This was the quartet's first real go of the season. The top time Soroco posted in the 400-meter relay last year was a 52.6, which came at the state meet.
"They are almost as fast," Heide said.
The girls sprint medley team also finished sixth in 2:03 but that included a bad handoff and a stumble and fall in the 400, so Heide expects that time to drop this weekend, as well.
The Soroco boys will be eyeing state qualifications this weekend when the Rams travel to Kremmling for the West Grand Invitational. This meet, which Hayden also will attend, serves as the first state pre-qualifier of the year for the Rams and Tigers.
The Rams are at or near state prequalifying times in several events, and it's only April 8.
Junior Andy deGanahl appears poised to qualify for the 200 and 400 meters this weekend, after winning the 200 meters in 22.31 and winning the 400 in 50.59 at Eagle Valley.
Both were hand-held times, but deGanahl is capable of running under the 52.3 and 23.5 needed to qualify electronically for state. He is the defending Class 2A state champion in the 200 and 400 meters.
"I know his foot speed is faster than last year," Heide said. "We worked on his starts. Against a couple of good sprinters, he had the best start of anybody. He was eating up staggers in the first 70 meters on good runners. I was hoping to be getting in shape by now, but to qualify for state already."
Senior Kory Babcock may find himself joining deGanahl in the open 400 field at state, and it may come as early as this weekend. Babcock finished third in Eagle Valley with a 52.22 hand-held time, which won't get him qualified for state, but Heide said Babcock is poised to break into the 51-second area, and that gets him close.
Babcock also took second in the long jump at Eagle Valley with a leap of 19 feet, 8 1/2 inches to set a school record.
Soroco's vaunted 1,600-meter relay team of senior Trevor Ellis, Babcock, senior C.J. Remick and deGanahl finished first Saturday, running a 3:36.8, which is on the bubble for state, Heide said.
But the win didn't come easily. The Rams were trailing Middle Park by 60 meters when deGanahl got the baton, but his 49.3 split on the anchor leg enabled the Rams to come from behind for the win.
"It's amazing to watch someone make up 60 meters in a 400 race," Heide said. "But we can't be expecting that."
The Rams 800-meter relay team of Ellis, Tony Iacovetto, Babcock and deGanahl finished second to Eagle Valley with a 1:33.77, and Heide is eager to see just how fast this relay can go -- perhaps as early as this weekend.
In addition, Soroco scored points with senior Matt Cartas, who placed third in the high jump, clearing 5-10, and with its 400-meter relay team of Ellis, Remick, Iacovetto and Cartas who got eighth.
"It's a great discussion to have on (April 7) to say they've already run fabulous times, and I get to talk about doing even better," Heide said regarding his team. "It's more difficult to improve than it is to stay the same, so they'll have to push to improve. These times will be tough to beat and improve on."
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