Steamboat's Hammond clears regional field

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— On Friday, Walker Hammond strolled into Stocker Stadium relaxed, carrying a guitar to play during down time.

On Saturday, the Steamboat Springs senior left Grand Junction a Region 1 champion, taking first in the 110-meter hurdles in 15.38 seconds.

Hammond had the second-fastest time coming into Saturday's finals. A hurdler from Montezuma-Cortez was the top seed, but Hammond pulled ahead of his opponent with several hurdles to go.

"I thought I was one or two," Hammond said. "The Cortez kid surprised me. We didn't run against them this year."

Hammond will represent the Sailors in two events at the Class 4A State Track and Field Championships on Friday and Saturday at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood. Hammond followed up his regional championship with a runner-up finish in the 300 hurdles Saturday afternoon.

The top three relays and individuals in each event qualify for state, and Hammond's time of 41.05 put the Sailor in the top three.

Montrose's Chris Huber won the event in 40.80.

Between hurdle finals, Ham--mond relaxed in the team tent with his guitar, staying away from the sun.

Last year, Hammond didn't race the hurdle events, focusing instead on the 3,200-meter relay, which qualified for state.

This year, he returned to individual events.

"I ran hurdles my sophomore year," he said. "Running an 800 in the morning juices you for the rest of the day, at least for me. I couldn't really run anything else well."

Several of Steamboat's youn--ger athletes had impressive finishes Saturday. Although they didn't qualify for state, they finished the season with momentum.

Sophomore Lizzie Stoll placed fourth in the discus. Freshman Rachael Caires placed sixth in the 400. Sophomore Chelsea Mosser scored points in the 100, 200 and long jump.

Sophomore Tyler Hutson placed sixth in the 400 in 52.48.

"I had an outside chance of qualifying for state," the upbeat sophomore said. "It's the hardest race. It's an all-out sprint."

Based on preliminary times, Hutson also should have raced in the 200 finals because his 24.18 was faster than Timothy Peters' 24.48, but event organizers took the top two finishers in each heat instead of the eight fastest times. Hutson was third in his heat.

"But I was in the fast heat," he said.

Next season, Hutson said, he is going to add another event to his repertoire.

"Coach (Andy Reust) wants to put me in the 800," Hutson said.

The Sailors already have two established 800 runners, including junior Lee Wren, who took second in his heat, striding out on his final lap to pass at least four runners.

Junior Matt Hill, who has qualified for state in the 1,600, just missed placing in the top three in the 800, running a 2:00.92 to take fourth. Hill also placed seventh in the 3,200.

Freshman Brittany Long ran well in her 3,200 race, placing sixth. Steamboat's Darren Burke placed eighth in the high jump, rounding out Steamboat's regional scoring.

Steamboat thrower Westin Cofer also is headed to state in the discus. He placed second Friday.

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

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