Striving for more

Sophomore takes sixth, vows to improve

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Don't tell Tara King she should be satisfied with a sixth-place finish just because she's a sophomore and is still learning how to run the 800 meters.

That doesn't make her feel better.

"I went in thinking there were girls here better than me," King said. "But I qualified, too. I should have taken off and been the leader. I needed to run my race."

In the 100, 200 and 400 meters, there isn't a strategy. But in the 800, how the race is run becomes a determining factor on where a runner places. With long strides and a fiery spirit, King prefers to go out hard and run hard the entire time because she hasn't developed a kick. She just started running track this season.

She fell into second place early on but let other runners pass her on the outset of the second lap. That moment is what makes King the most upset.

"I got boxed in," she said. "I should have gone out on the turn. I ran as if I had more laps. I had so much left at the end."

King placed sixth with a time of 2 minutes, 22.29 seconds. The winner, Alamosa's Laura Knapp, ran a 2:17.05. While sitting on the Jeffco Stadium infield, King spoke of the desire to get back to the state meet next year in the same event and run a better race. She'll have a good shot considering she already is one of the top Class 4A 800 runners in the state, let alone the Western Slope.

"I'm coming back hungry," she said.

All four members of Steamboat Springs' 800-meter medley team return next season. Three -- Jessica Peters, Missy Chotvacs and Hannah Bowers -- are sophomores. The fourth, Patricia Henderson, is a freshman. Saturday, in the first race of the day, they put together a time of 1:50.01 to place fifth.

All four ran great legs, including Peters who ran through the pain of a stress fracture. She later scratched out of the 400-meter finals, the event she won last year. Instead, Peters was named a state champion in the high jump after clearing 5 feet, 7 inches and defeating Lewis-Palmer's Alexis Spiranac in a jump-off Friday.

For three members of Steamboat's state track and field team, Saturday was their final day as high school athletes. Senior Hannah Gary placed ninth in the 100-meter hurdles. Gary has competed in high school track for only a little more than one season, so a trip to the state meet was something she was proud of. Like King, however, Gary aspires for excellence.

Saturday, she finished in 16.32.

"When I started hurdles (a year ago), I knew I could do them," Gary said. "I set really high expectations for myself. It is pretty cool actually to place. I'm glad I decided to stick with hurdles. I almost quit them in the middle of the year after I fell."

The fall knocked Gary's back out of whack, but she came back to qualify for state and eventually placed. For senior Tyler Johnson, his sole goal was to place this season after making it to state last year.

With a stacked field in the 100 and 200 meters, his shot at a championship was slim, so he took consolation in his times and the way the races felt. He took eighth Saturday in the 100 in 11.31 and came back with a personal best of 22.60 in the 200.

"That will be a great race to end on," Johnson said of the 200 run. "I never get to do this again. Last year, I just wanted to make it to state. This year, I wanted to make finals."

Mullen's Nathan York won in 10.58 and 21.18. Senior Tyler O'Leary was Steamboat's other senior at state this season. Friday, he finished 12th in the 1,600 and came back with an eighth-place finish in the 3,200 meters in 10:07.54.

Junior Jennifer Hooper placed 14th in the 1,600 on Friday. Saturday, she placed ninth in the 3,200 in 12:03.58.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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