Steamboat athletes go the distance

Five track team members qualify for state on day one of regionals

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Steamboat long jumper Jake Stanford took third place at Friday's Regional Track and Field Championships in Grand Junction and was one of five Sailors to earn a top-three qualifying berth to the Class 4A state track meet, May 18 and 19 in Jefferson County.

— If you give Westin Cofer an inch, he'll take a whole foot.

The Steamboat Springs senior discus thrower earned the top preliminary throw heading into the Class 4A finals of the event at the Regional Track and Field Championships, Friday in Grand Junction. But right before Cofer's third and final throw, Palisade's Alex Hays bested Cofer's top toss of 147 feet, 5 inches by one inch as the score to beat. Cofer calmly confirmed the distance with the judges and saved the best for last, ending the event with a throw of 148-11.

"I just wanted to get that regional championship," said Cofer, who had already pre-qualified for the state meet earlier in the year. "I just focused and pulled one out."

The Steamboat squad added up the inches and miles of their respective events to produce five qualified athletes for state at the first day of the championships.

For sophomore Brittany Long, the podium finish - which earned athletes the golden qualifying ticket to the State Track and Field Championships, May 18 and 19 in Jefferson County - meant focusing less on the immediate inches ahead when looking at two miles on a sweltering track.

In the final event of the day, Long tempered a consistent pace in the 3200 meters as friends, family members, teammates and coaches screamed encouragement from every side of the track. Long fell behind the lead pack by a considerable distance after the first three laps, but hung on to gut out a sprint to the finish in the final 200 meters, edging out Battle Mountain's Amber Suits for the coveted third-place spot.

"It's all mental." Long said. "I was just trying to stay in the top four or five, stay with them when they surged and then out-sprinting them in the end."

Whatever Lauren Marias ate for breakfast Friday morning, she may share with her teammates before the remainder of the final events, today.

Marias, a first-year track athlete, improved her personal best triple jump distance by nearly three feet. The junior took second-place with a distance of 33-6.5.

"I was ninth going into finals, I just thought I'd see how it goes, and I kind of stepped it up a bit," said a surprised Marias.

Marias wasn't the only jumper with unexpected results. Long jumper Jake Stanford flew well past his personal best to a third-place finish (20-5).

Matt Hill, already pre-qualified in the 1,600-meter run, took third in an eventful 800.

Hill took a tumble into the lead pack as the race opened, causing officials to restart the race. Hill recovered from the spill and like Long, held off a Battle Mountain opponent on his heels on the home stretch.

"I didn't really have my legs because the fall took it out of me," Hill said. "But it's my first time to qualify in the open eight, and I had my heart set on the 800 and the mile."

Other notable finishes included Shane McLean's fourth-place finish on the girls' side of the 800-meter run and Lizzie Stoll's fourth-place finish in the shot put. Heidi Lord and Stoll finished seventh and ninth, respectively, in the triple jump.

In preliminary action, Tyler Hutson finished third in the 400-meter dash and sixth in the 200, while Garrett Brew finished tenth in the 100-meter dash.

The Steamboat boys finished the day ranked the third of 10 schools and the girls finished in fifth.

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