Soroco team reloaded

Boys track team eyes chance to defend titles

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Soroco senior Matt Iacovetto got "the speech."

The one where coach Gary Heide pulls an athlete aside and tries to persuade him or her to give track and field a try. Several years ago, the sales pitch included phrases such as "being part of a team" or "conditioning for another sport" or "discovering hidden talent." Nowadays, "the speech" lasts seconds and consists of one question, "Want to win it all?"

Iacovetto bit -- hard.

"Coach got me out," Iacovetto said. "I want to go for that state title."

Senior Tony Iacovetto is a product of "the speech." He is a basketball player turned sprinter who succumbed to the temptation of winning it all when Heide pulled him aside before last season.

"Coach told me to expect a state championship," Tony Iacovetto said.

And that is exactly what he got. Tony Iacovetto teamed up with Trevor Ellis, Kory Babcock and Andy deGanahl to win the Class 2A 800-meter relay title in 2004. It was one of four state titles the Rams captured on that balmy day in Pueblo nearly 12 months ago.

DeGanahl successfully defended his 200- and 400-meter titles, and anchored the 1,600-meter relay team to victory, as well. Everyone stood and applauded and congratulated the tiny school for having such a great season, knowing there was no way the Rams would be able to replace graduating seniors Ellis and Babcock.

In the backs of their minds, Heide and deGanahl weren't sure what to expect this season, either. The return of Tony Iacovetto and deGanahl provided hope for a promising 800-meter relay team, but finding three great 400-meter runners to team up with deGanahl seemed unlikely.

"Kory and Trev are two outstanding athletes," deGanahl said. "All three of us made finals in the open 400 last year at regionals."

Enter Matt Iacovetto, sophomore Steve Meade and, for all practical purposes, a transformed Tony Iacovetto. Together, the quartet has prequalified for state in the 800- and 1,600-meter relays, running times comparable to what last year's team was posting in mid-April.

This year, their top time in the 1,600-meter relay is 3 minutes, 35.49 seconds. Their top time in the 800-meter relay is 1:33.10. Both times will have to drop when May comes, but, barring injury, there is little reason to question that they will.

"They are proving to be faster than I thought," Heide said. "I think Tony is the key. To me, he is the reason why we will be competitive for the championship again. He is running 200 and 200 splits faster than Kory at this point. I never would have thought it."

Tony Iacovetto ran a season best 23.25 in Grand Valley on Wednesday. It is faster than the prequalifying standard this year, giving Soroco two of the best individual sprinters in Class 2A -- again.

Last season, deGanahl and Babcock finished first and third, respectively, in the open 400 meters.

"I knew Kory played a huge role, so I tried to step my times up," Tony Iacovetto said. "I'm a year more confident with another year in the system. I'm a year stronger."

Matt Iacovetto and Meade continue to improve with every track meet, as well. Meade ran sprint events last year as a freshman, but he never competed at the level he is asked to be at now.

"I feel I'm getting better at the 400 every time I run it," Meade said. "I feel the extra pressure because I'm not a senior. I don't want to let them down."

As the quartet worked on handoffs during a Tuesday practice in Steamboat Springs, their excitement was obvious. Now, there are expectations when, once, there were none.

"We got Matt out, and we had people step up this year," deGanahl said. "There's no reason we can't reclaim our title. Now, we run against the clock. We are going after time."

And titles.

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