Four days after cross-country practice officially started, Steamboat Springs High School hired Glen Light as the team's new coach.
Now, he can join the 14 runners who began the season on time and begin the process of catching up with the rest of the league.
"I'm sure (starting without a coach) will have an impact," senior runner Jennifer Hooper said. "But we are trying to stay positive and come together as a team."
The team began practicing under the leadership of two assistant coaches, Erin Light, Glen Light's wife, and Jim Barker, but the Sailors now will begin the process of adjusting to a new coach.
Light, who was a high school and collegiate track and cross-country athlete, is excited to be in the coaching position. Before taking the job, though, he had to figure out a way to work, compete in cyclocross, a sport that combines running and biking, and provide the time and support the Sailors need.
Light, a resident of Steamboat for more than three years, has six years of previous coaching experience at three Denver schools. He said now is a good time in his life to resume working with teens.
"They are so fun to be around," he said of Steamboat's team. "It's contagious. I felt very comfortable when I showed up with the kids. They are very approachable and real. There is no ego or attitude. ... I think they are certainly happy to know that they have a coach now. They just wanted to have that leadership."
Light, who was hired Friday, said the team had an excellent eight-mile run Saturday. Experienced runners, such as Jennifer Hooper and Mike Gleason, have stepped into leadership roles and are trying to show the younger runners by example how things are done.
The boys and girls teams each have an experienced core of runners returning this season, and Hooper and Gleason have their sights set on returning to state.
Gleason and teammates Matt Hill, Kieran Corrigan, Justin Krause and Andy Garber will bring a wealth of experience to the boys' team.
Hooper, Sarah MacCarthy, Katie Conrath, Madison Proper and Florie Van Baak should anchor the girls' team this season.
Gleason said most of the runners on this year's team already know the drill, and it's up to the older runners to help those who don't.
"This is just like old times for me," Gleason said. "We all know what to do to get into shape for the season. We just have to get out there and do it."
However, veteran runner Hooper thinks the late arrival of a new coach will be felt this season.
Former coach John Smith, who resigned last season to return to school, organized unofficial summer training runs and constantly was promoting the team in the community.
This summer, Hooper said the team had fewer, less organized runs. She also thinks the vacant coaching position may have resulted in fewer runners coming out for the team this fall.
"I'm very self-motivated, but I still need a coach to push me from time to time," Hooper said. "John (Smith) did that for this team."
Light agreed that the late hiring of a coach wasn't helpful to those runners who might have needed some prompting to run in the offseason, but he said there are a number of runners who already look strong.
Athletics Director Richard Lee said the high school has been aggressively seeking a new coach since Smith decided to resign. On Friday, Lee announced that Light had been hired and feels the school has found a qualified person to lead the team.
The team's schedule is not official, but it looks as if it will open the season at home Sept. 11.
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