The baton is magic -- at least, that's the conclusion Soroco track coach Gary Heide has reached.
He didn't think some members of the Rams girls team were in good enough shape to post top relay times so early in the season. But on Saturday, at the Hotchkiss Invitational, Melissa Roy, Karli Babcock, Kyla Schmidt and Nichole Wilson won the 400- and 800-meter relays in their first attempts this season.
Last year, the girls finished second in the state in both relays. On Saturday, the quartet picked up where it left off.
The girls defeated Class 5A, 4A and 3A teams in both events, winning the 400-meter relay in 53.74 seconds and the 800-meter relay in 1:53.11. They need to cut about a second off both times to pre-qualify for state. Not bad, considering the state meet is a month and a half away.
"They do impress me when they get their relay baton," Heide said. "I'm constantly trying to get them to rise to the occasion as individuals, but when they do get together in that relay, they do rise to the occasion. I know the baton is magic. They come up and run big."
This season, Heide moved Wilson to the anchor leg of the 800-meter relay. Babcock remains the anchor in the 400-meter relay. The change didn't seem to affect the team's results.
"What they've been telling me is how much fun they had (in Hotchkiss)," Heide said. "They really seem to be dedicated. I didn't know until the season started. For the first time, they may take on the challenge to run a couple 400s. They are showing the willingness to do that even though they don't like it. They know it will make them stronger."
When it comes to Andy deGanahl running the 400 meters, however, no encouragement is necessary. On Saturday, deGanahl won his second 400 race of the season in 49.46 seconds, his second sub-50 run of the spring.
He already has pre-qualified for the state meet, running a 49.9 at the Mickey Dunn Invitational in Grand Junction on March 12. The pre-qualifying time for the Class 2A meet is 52.44, giving some indication as to how deGanahl's season has started. He also won the 200 in 23.24. He is the two-time defending state champion in both events.
Soroco's 800-meter relay team of Matt Iacovetto, Steve Meade, Tony Iacovetto and deGanahl also won with a time of 1:35.27. The same four placed fourth in the 1,600-meter relay, behind teams from Fruita-Monument, Rifle and Montrose.
Other highlights for Soroco were Schmidt's fifth-place finish in the long jump with a leap of 14 feet, 11 inches; Zach Shaffner's 2:23 in his first 800-meter race ever; and Colleen Treanor's continued improvement in the distance events.