When it comes to running races, it helps to chase one teammate while having another push from behind.
Friendly team competition helped Mike Gleason, a senior on the Steamboat High School boy's cross-country team, overtake teammate Sam Tarrant in the final stretch of Saturday's season-opening race at the base of Howelsen Hill.
Six of seven boys competing for Steamboat placed in the top 10, pushing the boys team to first place over Glenwood Springs and Rifle.
Despite a late start in hiring a coach and preparing for the season, Gleason is optimistic that his team's efforts Saturday will carry over to future races.
"Everybody is older and faster," Gleason said. "We're really tight, our splits between each other were really close."
Alex Tiernan of Glenwood held a firm lead in the 3.1-mile race, completing with a time of 18 minutes, 31 seconds in the 25-runner field. Gleason's time was 19:49, and Tarrant took a close third at 19:51. Steamboat's Matt Hill placed fourth with a time of 19:54.
Other Steamboat finishers
were Andy Garber in sixth with a time of 20:20, Kieran Corrigan in seventh at 20:22 and Brett Denny in ninth with a time of 21:40. Justin Krause placed 19th with a time of 23:18.
Overall, the Steamboat boys' team had 22 points, followed by Glenwood with 35 points and Rifle with 96 points.
The girls team, which faced Regis in addition to Glenwood and Rifle, placed second overall, thanks to strong runs from senior Jennifer Hooper, who finished first with a time of 22:01 in the 36-runner field.
Despite dealing with fatigue and the rigors of a tough class schedule, Hooper said she felt pretty good during the race.
"I think we did well, considering we're a smaller team and lost a lot of seniors last year," she said.
Sharaya Selsor of Glenwood took second place with a time of 22:35, and Elisabeth Strouse of Rifle had a third-place time of 23 minutes.
Steamboat's Katie Conrath placed sixth with a time of 24:17, and Sarah MacCarthy had a 12th-place time of 25:10. Alyssa Walter placed 16th with a time of 26:13, followed by Madison Proper, who finished 17th with a time of 26:14.
Florie Vanbaak placed 23rd at 28:20, followed by 25th-place finisher Coleen Treanor at 28:36. Anna Anderson came in 27th with a time of 29:11. Molly Wunder had to pull out of the race because of a hip problem.
Regis placed first overall with 47 points. Steamboat had 52 points, and Glenwood placed third with 54 points.
Moffat County and Aspen were scheduled to attend the race but did not show.
"I would have liked to have had more competition," Steamboat's assistant coach Erin Light said, adding that Steamboat runners probably didn't mind a smaller field for their first race.
The racecourse, which traversed hilly terrain southeast of Howelsen Hill and above River Road, was different from last year's course, which took runners up the steep Mile Run trail.
Mud from Friday's rains made the course, known as one of the toughest in the state, even more challenging, Light said.
Most race courses, especially those at the state competition level, are mostly flat and encourage runners to try for their best times, usually for college purposes, she said.
Hooper, who is a favorite for state competition, said the course will only make her stronger for flatter races.
"I know I do better on flat courses," she said. "This is something that pushes me mentally."
Steamboat's cross-country teams got a late start on the season since their coach, Glen Light -- who didn't make the race because of another obligation -- wasn't hired until late August when school started.
That put the Steamboat team at a slight disadvantage compared to other teams that were able to train through the summer, Gleason said.
"It was hard because we didn't have a coach to organize it," he said.
Though it's still early in the season, Erin Light said there was a chance the boys' team could make it to state based on its performance Saturday.
But when it comes to Hooper, Erin Light was more than optimistic about the runner's potential for state.
"There's no doubt Jennifer Hooper will make it to state," Erin Light said.
The Steamboat cross-country teams will race at the Air Academy in Colorado Springs on Saturday.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail email@example.com