Steamboat Springs Matt Hill and Westin Cofer were the first to arrive at track practice Wednesday.
The Steamboat Springs seniors were keenly aware they were suiting up for the final practice of their high school careers. Both realized they have only one more chance to break the school records they have had their eyes on since the beginning of the track and field season.
Cofer knows he has 5 feet ahead of him if he hopes to break his personal best discus throw and the school record of 160 feet. Hill is looking at two seconds. His personal best time of 4 minutes, 29 seconds - which qualified him for state in the 1,600 meters at an April meet in Grand Junction - still is shy of the 4:27 time that's been on the Sailors' record board for more than 20 years.
Although both athletes pre-qualified for the Class 4A State Track and Field Championships that begin today in Lakewood, the track and field duo still had impressive regional results - Hill qualified in the 800-meter run, and Cofer nabbed a regional discus championship. Now, it's a matter of stepping up in the face of the toughest competition they've seen all year.
"It will be a much faster group - and I try to hang with the group," said Hill, who goes into state ranked seventh of 24 athletes. "When it's a slow group, I still kind of hang with the group and get relaxed, like I did at regionals."
Cofer planned to spend the practice keying in on his form and quickness. But all the practice in the world can't prepare athletes for the mental pressure of a state championship event.
"When I start to think about it too much, my throws don't go as far," said Cofer, ranked ninth out of the state's top 19 throwers. "I just gotta relax and not let the pressure get to me."
Fortunately, Cofer returns to a ring where he took fourth last year.
"The atmosphere elevates your game," Cofer said. "The competition ahead of you helps you step up your game. My plan is to get the first one in and wing it from there."
One thing is for certain for Hill and Cofer - having double the amount of teammates to make the trip to state will only help. Juniors Tyler Hutson (400-meter dash), Lauren Marias (triple jump), Jake Stanford (long jump) and sophomore Brittany Long (3,200-meter run) also are competing.
While Marias expressed her excitement in getting to watch the pole vault and Long put in some final miles, Stanford was trying to sharpen his jumps in an event he had no expectations of qualifying for.
Hutson wasn't concerned about his seed or the competition in his heat. He was focused simply on making the finals by running within himself to his fastest time of the year on the biggest stage.
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