Hayden's Laura Zirkle was transformed from recreational runner to state qualifier in three months.
Zirkle, a freshman, was a member of the state-bound Moffat County girls cross-country team, a position she embraced but found a little surprising.
"I didn't really expect to do that well," Zirkle said. "It was kind of a hobby, and now, I'm more of a racer. I think I have changed a lot with this experience. I've never been in anything like cross country."
Zirkle was active in the Steamboat Springs Running Series in 2004 and took part in a couple of races last summer. People in the series approached her about getting involved in cross country. When she started high school, Zirkle and her parents opted to make the daily drive to Craig for practice. Hayden does not offer the sport.
"At the beginning of the year when Laura joined our cross country team, I expected her to be part of our varsity squad throughout the year," Moffat County coach Todd Trapp said. "As the season went on, Laura became more confident in her running abilities. At the beginning of the year, she just wanted to make varsity. By the middle to end of the year, she looked to be one of our scorers (top five runners)."
Zirkle's finish at the regional meet Oct. 22 in Palisade -- she was the third Bulldog runner across the finish line -- helped Moffat County qualify for the state cross-country meet.
At state, Zirkle was part of a young Bulldogs squad that finished 14th on Oct. 29 in Colorado Springs. Zirkle placed 110th, finishing the 5-kilometer course in 22 minutes, 34 seconds.
"At the beginning of the year, I wasn't very aggressive," Zirkle said. "I got really behind the pack in my first race and stayed there. Everybody on the team and my coach told me to be more aggressive. I started to be, and it worked."
Zirkle said she plans to run track this spring for Hayden.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208
or e-mail email@example.com