Matt Hill is not one for chit-chatting after one of his races. The Steamboat Springs distance runner has only one thing on his mind - hydration.
It's a testament to the senior's dedicated year-round training regimen. Ever since last year's Class 4A State Track and Field Championships, where he finished 18th in the 1,600-meter run, Hill has been focused on his return to state and another crack at the school record of 4 minutes, 27 seconds - so much so that Hill estimated he's had only one week off from training in the past year.
But after Saturday's 1,600-meter finals at the packed Jefferson County Stadium, a shocked and despondent Hill laid on the infield grass, wondering what the two-a-day winter practices with distance coach Greg Long and the spring break training trip had added up to.
"My tank was on empty the entire time," said Hill, who fell from the No. 7-ranked seed in the race to a 20th-place finish in 4:47.34. "It just sucked that it had to be this day - all seasons come down to it, and I let myself down."
Perhaps it was Friday's tough competition in the 800-meter finals that drained the tank.
From the start, Hill thought the race didn't feel that smooth. But after the first 400 meters, Hill was poised in seventh place, amid the leading pack. By the next 400, D'Evelyn's Kevin Williams - who shattered the state record in the 3,200 by nine seconds Friday - had established a healthy lead, and Montrose's Chris Hay passed Hill to put him in eighth.
Halfway through the race, the Western Slope region was out in force, hanging in a top-12 pack that included Hay, Hill, Battle Mountain's Jonny Stevens and Moffat County's Jeremy Bird.
"That's what I was trying for - to get everyone from the Western Slope up there," said Hay, who was the region's top finisher in sixth. "We haven't been representing like that for a while."
In lap three, Hill's tank dried up, and he dropped from eighth to 18th. Williams held on to win in 4:23.87.
Hay approached Hill and offered him a respectful handshake between rivals, wishing him luck in college. Hill didn't know how long he would take off from training before next season, but knows it won't be long as he heads to Western State College of Colorado for NCAA competition in both cross-country and track and field.
While Hill and Westin Cofer, Steamboat's two state-qualifying seniors, both look forward to collegiate athletics after disappointing state finishes (Cofer will attend Mesa State College to play football).
Steamboat coach Andy Reust said his team's Friday state performances should positively influence the four returning athletes' hunger for better results next season.
Reust was pleased to see Brittany Long qualify in a talented 3,200-meter field as a sophomore and to watch Lauren Marias deliver results in her first attempt triple jumping from the 32-foot board as well as Jake Stanford's efforts in the long jump. He called Tyler Hutson's 400-meter dash a great finish to "a breakthrough year."
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