The Steamboat Springs cross-country teams had little idea how they would compare to other Western Slope teams until their third race of the season Saturday. Now, the runners are well informed.
"There are some good girls around here," all-state Sailor Jennifer Hooper said after finishing third in the girls race. "I think now I have a better idea of what the competition is like, and it will help motivate me."
Saturday, the Sailors saw regional competitors Palisade, Rifle and Moffat County for the first time.
Hooper's early season competition was with three Bulldogs and Aspen's Christy Severy. The Steamboat senior led a pack of three Moffat County runners that chased Severy for most of the race. Hooper was able to beat two of the three Bulldogs. Severy won the race.
"I tried to stick with Severy, but I got a side ache around the
second mile and blew up a bit," she said. "But I recovered and came back to get some people."
The Bulldogs showed they were the early favorites on the Western Slope with six runners finishing in the top 13. Steamboat's second runner, Katie Conrath, finished in 23rd, and Sarah MacCarthy was 26th. Madison Proper was the team's fourth finisher, coming in 35th. Rounding out the top seven for the Sailors were Florie Van Baak in 41st, Anna Anderson in 46th and Colleen Treanor in 60th.
"We need to get the ball rolling with more miles and harder workouts," Hooper said. "This performance wasn't ideal, but it's just practice until regionals and state."
First-year coach Glen Light liked what he saw.
"I had goose bumps during both races," he said. "I was really impressed with how both teams were focused on what they were doing."
Light said his first impression of the Western Slope competition was all about the teams in blue.
"Moffat is solid on both sides," he said. "I'm not sure if we're at that level, but I think on the guys side, it will come down to our fourth and fifth runners."
No official team scores were kept but, unofficially, the Sailors finished third behind Battle Mountain and Moffat County. Sam Tarrant led the Sailors with a 13th-place finish. The other scoring Sailors were Andy Garber, 17th; Matt Hill, 22nd; Marty Smith, 23rd; and Kieran Corrigan, 28th. The sixth and seventh Sailors were Mike Gleason, 36th, and Brett Denney, 49th.
"Everybody is starting to believe that they can be good runners," Light said. "I'm really excited for the teams after today, because I think we're capable of being stealthy and surprising some people late."
Next for the Sailors is a race at 9,000 feet Saturday in Summit County.
-- David Pressgrove can be reached
at (970)824-7031, ext.211,