Few cross-country teams in Northwest Colorado will agree to compete in Steamboat Springs.
It's too hilly and it's too high in elevation for racers accustomed to flat courses to post good times.
On Saturday, beneath blue skies and with How--elsen Hill's ski jumps providing the background, runners from Steamboat, Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Regis and Coal Ridge took to the dirt and grass of Howelsen Hill for one of the season's hardest races.
The Sailors boys team was victorious for the second straight year, scoring 15 points. The Steamboat girls team finished third with 60 points. Each team's top four runners counted toward the team score.
Steamboat junior Matt Hill won the 5K race in 20 minutes, 13 seconds. Glenwood freshman Katrina Selsor won the girls race in 22:32.
Hill took the lead from the start but gave up ground to teammate Kieran Corrigan and Rifle's Scott Rust on the back, hilly portions of the course.
"I opened up my stride on the downhill," Hill said. "I didn't want to lead the whole time. I saved some energy, and as soon as we hit the stables, I decided to take off."
Corrigan, a senior from Soroco, was third in 20:21. Freshman Charlie Stoddard was impressive in his high school debut, finishing fourth in 20:25. Senior Sam Tarrant was seventh, and sophomore Brett Denney was ninth, giving Steamboat five runners in the top 10.
T.J. Anderson and Logan Lightfoot, two other young Steamboat runners, finished in the top 30.
"I felt tired the whole time," Corrigan said, despite his high finish.
The finish should bode well for Steamboat's boys, who performed well but are nowhere near the conditioning level they will be at for the regional meet in October.
The Steamboat girls didn't have any runners on the podium, but the team isn't blessed with much experience, either. In their varsity debuts, freshman Cassady Roberts and Melissa Krause led the girls, finishing seventh and 12th, respectively.
Roberts, who has taken part in the Steamboat Springs Running Series, said she felt more pressure in her first cross country race than any running series race she's entered. She finished in 25:04. Krause crossed the finish line near Howelsen Hill Lodge in 26:56.
She and junior Erin Gleason, who placed 37th, are following in family footsteps this season. Neither has run cross country before, but their older brothers -- Justin Krause and Mike Gleason --id.
"They wanted us to carry on the torch," Melissa Krause said.
Sophomore Alyssa Walter, junior Anna Anderson and sophomore Mollie Wunder are returning runners for Steamboat and showed some of that experience with strong runs in the second half of the race, finishing in a pack.
Walter was 19th in 29:10. Anderson was 23rd in 29:31 and Wunder was 25th in 29:48. Mixed in that bunch was freshman Rachael Caires, who finished 22nd in 29:21. Junior Courtney Adamo was 30th in 30:11.
Anderson said she was lucky that when she was younger, upperclassmen helped her through the early races and gave her advice about how to improve. She will do the same for runners such as Roberts, Krause and Caires.
"It's such a fun team to be a part of," Anderson said.
Krause admitted that she already has learned one lesson about racing.
"Don't go out too fast," she said.
Steamboat's next race is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Craig. The Moffat County Invitational usually attracts the top regional teams from the western half of the state.