One of 500 boys. That is how Andy deGanahl approaches each track season, even if he is the one that people stop to watch.
The Soroco senior already has four state championship individual and two relay titles on his resume. This season, he is seeking his third-straight 200- and 400-meter state championships. The difference between deGanahl and a number of other defending state championships, however, is his refusal to be satisfied.
The Soroco and Steamboat Springs track teams wasted little time getting the season started in impressive fashion. Soroco senior Andy deGanahl won the 400 meters in 49.9 seconds. Last year, he did not break 50 seconds until winning the state title in the same event for his second-straight season. The race also featured a Montrose runner who was the only one to beat deGanahl last season in the open 400. "The race was over in the first 150 meters," Soroco coach Gary Heide said. "Andy was real happy to break the 50-second mark already this season." The Steamboat girls took first in the 400- and 800-meter relays, which coach Andy Reust said came as somewhat of a surprise. Chelsea Mosser, Christie Fielding and Katy Gary, all freshmen, teamed up with Hannah Bowers to win both relay events. Steamboat's two top finishes and deGanahl's win were the only championships the Routt County teams picked up Saturday. Heide and Reust took partial squads to the meet. Steamboat's Kayla Kostur placed third in the triple jump and second in the high jump, clearing 5 feet. Alec Nelson was third, and Matt Hill was fourth in the 800 meters for the Sailors. Soroco's 1,600-meter relay team of Matt Iacovetto, Steve Meade, Tony Iacovetto and deGanahl placed third, but it was the top Class 2A team in the field. The boys ran a 3:40.6. The same four also placed fourth in the 800-meter relay with a time of 1:36.6. Both times were similar to the ones posted in the first meet of the season last year. Both relays went on to win state titles last spring. "We were psyched about our relays." Kyla Schmidt was the only placer for the Soroco girls. She took fifth in the 400 in 63.3 and was fourth in the long jump, leaping 15-4. The Rams' 400-meter relay team of Matt Iacovetto, Johnny DeCosta, Tony Iacovetto and Nick Rangel was seventh in 48.3. Both teams will compete in the Hotchkiss Invitational on March 26.
"What Andy really excels in, he knows at the start of every season, he starts as one of 500 guys," Rams coach Gary Heide said. "He does not have a large ego. He knows if he wants to be where he was, he has to work his hind end off. He has to act like this is a new year."
The Soroco girls are eager to start the new season, too. The relay team of Karli Babcock, Melissa Roy, Kyla Schmidt and Nichole Wilson left last year's state meet with two second-place finishes, in the 400- and 800-meter relays, and one fourth-place finish in the 800-meter medley.
"Ever since last year, I know they wanted to return and do even better," Heide said. "I know they have confidence because they are all back. Based on (last) week, they are really working hard and have a good focus."
But Heide has talked to the quartet about each racer earning her spot on the relays and running in the moment instead of looking toward state.
"They have to enjoy all the other meets," Heide said. "Obviously, state is the one they are thinking about, but they have to realize there are a lot of other meets this year."
One way to re-energize veterans is to provide them with an individual challenge. This year, Heide is hoping Wilson, Roy, Schmidt and Babcock will become fiercely competitive in their individual races, as well.
Roy runs the 100. Schmidt is a 400-meter and long-jump girl. Wilson and Babcock are exceptional 200 runners, and Babcock may even try some field events.
"I'm talking to them about enjoying the process and enjoying the dream and enjoying the road," Heide said.
But those four girls are just a few of the members on a team Heide is excited about. Sophomore Toni Lombardi is a promising young sprinter who could challenge for a relay spot, as could several freshmen.
"I see the girls being a very well-rounded team," Heide said.
Sprinter Mindy McElroy, thrower Nicole Martin and distance runner Colleen Treanor, all seniors, certainly fit into that idea. Treanor is eyeing a possible trip to the state meet and consistently has dropped her times in the three previous seasons. This spring, Devin DuPree is working with Soroco's distance runners, and Heide said DuPree has been an incredible addition.
"He's really brought a lot of excitement to distance,"
Heide said. "He has 13 kids run--ning distance."
Junior Kieran Corrigan, who unexpectedly qualified for last year's state meet in the 1,600 meters, will lead the boys' distance runners. Senior Zack Shaffner is a new addition to the middle distance and distance events.
For the boys, the key will be replacing graduates Kory Babcock and Trevor Ellis, two integral pieces in the relay machine Soroco has become. Seniors Tony Iacovetto and Matt Iacovetto, the latter out for track for the first time, are progressing well, Heide said. Tony Iacovetto was a member of the state champion 800-meter relay team last year.
"We have some superb senior leadership," Heide said. "Tony is really looking good. I expect him to be impressive in the open 200. ... Matt is an exceptional athlete. As soon as we can get him used to running track, and a few more weeks of training and half a dozen meets, he will be pretty impressive."
The 1,600-meter relay team has become Soroco's thing. Last year, the Rams won a state title. With deGanahl as an anchor, they are always a threat to perform well. Heide is searching for the other three legs. Sophomore Steve Meade may be a great place to start.
Lucas Sullivan and Johnny DeCosta are other promising athletes. Junior Nick Rangel likely will help the Rams score points in the throwing events.
A partial Soroco squad opened the season Saturday in Grand Junction. The Rams' next big meet is April 26 in Hotchkiss.