Soroco relay squads dig deep; four of five qualify for state

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Soroco relay runner Sarajane Rossi, right, crosses the finish line several meters ahead of the nearest competitor during the 4-by-200 relay race held during the regional track meet in Grand Junction on Saturday. The Sailors' first-place finish qualifies them for a spot in the upcoming state meet in Pueblo next weekend.

— Soroco runner Johnny DeCosta chose his words wisely before the final day of competition at the Regional Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Grand Junction.

The senior wanted to make sure his 4-by-800 relay team cashed in on the chance to earn a top-three finish and a trip to the Class 2A state meet Friday and Saturday in Pueblo.

"Johnny gave us a speech last night that we needed to finish so we could look in one another's eyes and say that we gave everything we had," David Roberts said, knowing that if the team broke the nine-minute barrier for the first time, it would be a shoo-in.

Roberts started the relay that DeCosta anchored, finishing the race in second behind Paonia in a time of 8 minutes, 52 seconds. After Roberts' leg, Peter Daley grabbed the baton in fifth and started passing opponents to put the team in the second-place position that Michael Schmidt and DeCosta held onto.

"We just put it all together," Daley said.

"Since the beginning of the year, this is the one we wanted because we knew this team had promise," DeCosta added.

Catching their breath amid celebrations after the race, the team members were confident they had left everything on the field, including stomach contents from more than one team member.

On the girls side, Saturday was a day for the "T-T-T-S connection," otherwise know as the relay foursome of Toni Lombardi, Tatum Lombardi, Traci Schlegel and Sarajane Rossi.

"I may have to change my name to Tina," Rossi joked.

But while she was on the track, Rossi was all business, anchoring relay legs in the 800 sprint medley, the 4-by-200 and the 4-by-400 relays.

The team went 3-for-3, marking the first time all three relays have qualified for state, Soroco coach David Bruner said.

The Rams' best performance was in the 4-by-200, which they won when Rossi blazed past Vail Christian's Molly Brooks. The team's time of 1:51.9 was its best.

Bruner was pleased to see the boys 4-by-400 team cut two seconds off its best time. The team finished in a heartbreaking fourth place, a second behind Dolores.

"Alex Estes is running a 55-second split - that's incredible for a freshman and Peter Daley's a sophomore who's running a 55 as well," Bruner said. The coach said he was proud to have four of five relay teams and 11 total runners qualify for state.

Bruner noted the throwing efforts of Matt Watwood and Dennis Morgan, who failed to reach the shot put finals but earned their personal best throws. Bruner also acknowledged that Rossi broke her own school record by 4.5 seconds in Friday's 800-meter run. Schlegel scored for the Rams with a fifth-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles as did the seventh-place girls 4-by-800 relay team of Amber Larsen, Kelsey Samuelson, Emily Hallenbeck and Beth Strait.

The Soroco girls finished ninth in team rankings, and the boys placed 15th. Seventeen schools compted.

"These kids deserve it," Bruner said. "They've been working so hard. Now we just have to fine-tune some things and hopefully make some finals at state."

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