It isn't uncommon for Soroco track coach Gary Heide to be rendered speechless by the1,600-meter relay team. But on Saturday, he was so nervous after watching the quartet of Trevor Ellis, Kory Babcock, Carl Remick and Andy deGanahl run that he couldn't do simple math.
The Rams not only came from behind to win the event at the Clint Wells Invitational, they did so in a season-best time of 3 minutes, 31.89 seconds that left the four gasping for air, while their coach hopelessly tried to add and subtract to figure out split times.
Soroco already had pre-qualified for state in the relay, but the boys are trying to cut seconds, as they shoot for a possible state title. Saturday, they knocked nearly four seconds off their previous best time of the season.
Ellis led off with a 55.8 on his 400-meter leg. Babcock, also a senior, followed with a 50.8, catching every team but Middle Park. Remick, a freshman, kept the Rams in second with a solid 55.7 split. Then deGanahl, a junior, blew past the Middle Park anchor in the final 100 meters of his 400 leg, turning in a 49.6.
It was a performance that capped off an entertaining --albeit long -- 10 hours at the Moffat County High School track Saturday, where multiple meet and school records were broken.
Steamboat Springs got things started in the opening event when the sprint medley team of freshman Patricia Henderson and sophmores
Missy Chotvacs, Hannah Bowers and Jessica Peters placed first in 1:51.71 to easily pre-qualify for the Class 4A state meet later this month in Denver.
The team had been running nearly two seconds below the pre-qualification standard, so it was just a matter of putting a solid race together at a qualifying meet, Chotvacs said. Still, she added, there is room to improve "if we get our handoffs down."
Peters, the anchor of the sprint medley, later turned in a 26.16 in her preliminary heat of the 200 meters to pre-qualify in that event, as well. She had qualified in the high jump and 400 at earlier meets.
Though she did not place, Hayden freshman Amber Suits set a new school record in the 1,600 meters with a 2:26.26, breaking Alisa King's record of 6:29.21 set in 1982.
Weather and wind are frequently a factor at the Clint Wells Invitational, but Saturday was a relatively nice day, and the times turned in reflected it.
In addition to the title picked up by Soroco's 1,600-meter relay team and Steamboat's sprint medley team, Peters took first in the 400 with a time of 60.15. Chotvacs won the triple jump with a leap of 32 feet, 3 1/4 inches, and deGanahl won the 200 and 400 in 22.31 and 50.13, respectively.
He also turned in what Heide estimated to be about a 22-second split in the anchor leg of the 800-meter relay, as Soroco came from seventh to finish second. Heide was so excited, he said, that he hit the wrong button on his stopwatch and didn't get an accurate reading.
While the finishes in the 800 and 1,600-meter relay were two of the meet's highlights, perhaps the top duel of the day happened in the high-jump pit. Moffat County's Brad Hurd and Montrose's Trent Manganello each cleared 6-5 inches to force a jump off. Hurd cleared 6-6 to win, drawing huge gasps and cheers from the crowd that had gathered at the far end of the track.
Saturday's meet featured 23 teams of all sizes, making it one of the more competitive gatherings of the season for all three Routt County schools. Subsequently, athletes and coaches alike ultimately were more concerned with times than placements.
The regional track meet for 2A and 4A schools is two weeks away. It represents the last shot teams will have to qualify for the state meet, assuming they did not pre-qualify, so every opportunity teams get at competing at a high level are welcome.
Saturday, Hayden's 400-meter relay team of sophomore Tyson Letlow and juniors Jesse Drennan, Kenny Gehrman and Evan Hilling ran for the fourth time all season as a unit, finishing sixth in 45.68. The same four teamed up for just the second time this season in the 800-meter relay and placed fifth in 1:37.86.
"I thought our relays were impressive, particularly in the 4-by-2" Tigers coach Kevin Kleckler said. "We also had some good individual performances."
Junior Lauren Branstetter turned in a season-best 62.03 in the 400, as she aims for a return trip to state in the event.
But Saturday's meet wasn't all about taking first, at least not for Steamboat sophomore Gary Nelson. The special needs student fulfilled a goal of his when he competed for the Sailors in Craig. He threw the shot put 13-10 and threw the discus 51-8 in his only performance of the season -- a performance throwing coach Lonn Clementson said Nelson should be proud of.
Hayden and Soroco return to the track Saturday at the Western Slope League meet in Kremmling. Steamboat travels to Grand Junction on Friday for the two-day Tiger Invitational at Stocker Stadium, site of the 2004 regional meet.