On the right track -- and field

Steamboat team looks to build on strong 2004

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Eight state track and field qualifiers are back for Steamboat Springs, eager to build on last season's success.

Last year, 13 girls from Steamboat won the school's first Class 4A regional championship. Eight of those girls advanced to state. All but one -- senior Hannah Gary, who placed in the 100-meter hurdles -- are back this year.

"Our goal is to repeat as regional champions and place higher at state," coach Andy Reust said.

A stress fracture in her left foot prevented Jessica Peters from defending the 400-meter state title she won as a freshman. Instead, she unexpectedly won the state high jump title as a sophomore last year. This spring, as long as Peters stays healthy, she will be a state contender in both.

Reust doesn't have his relay teams set for the boys or the girls, but every member of Steamboat's 800-meter medley relay is back. Those girls are Peters, juniors Missy Chotvacs and Hannah Bowers, and sophomore Patricia Henderson.

Henderson also came on late last year in the individual 400.

In addition, Chotvacs and senior Kayla Kostur are state qualifiers in the triple jump. Seniors Jennifer Hooper and Katie Conrath return as two of Steamboat's top distance runners. Junior Tara King, the school record holder in the 800 meters, will join them. Last year, King juggled time between tennis and track. This season, King, who placed sixth in the 800 last year, is focusing on track and wants to run the 1,600, as well.

Reust has steered some of the athletes toward events that will help them in other sports, as well as events he thinks could help score more team points for the Sailors.

Steamboat is the favorite to repeat as regional champs on the girls' side.

On the boys team, junior Walker Hammond, who ran the 300-meter hurdles at the state championship last year, is the lone returning male state qualifier. He is joined by a number of underclassmen and a few upperclassmen new to track but ready for immediate results.

"There are a lot of good looking freshmen," Reust said. "They are still learning. I think we will sneak up on a few teams later on."

Steamboat's younger boys may have the opportunity to make a more immediate impact, and there are several rookie girls who could help their team, too, Reust said.

Katy Gary is a strong hurdler and provides more depth in the sprint relays. Christie Fielding, Chelsea Mosser, Lizzie Stoll and Jessica Fox, all freshmen, were other names Reust threw out in the early season.

Steamboat has a tough schedule, including multiple meets in Grand Junction and a meet in Eaglecrest on April 2. Usually, the Sailors don't run against Front Range schools until the state meet.

Steamboat's assistant coaches are: Gabe Brubacher (throwing events) Lonn Clementson (long and triple jump), Tom Fitzgerald (distance), Quint Friesell (sprints), Mike McCannon (sprints) and Denise Pearson (hurdles).

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

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