Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs High School boys cross-country team has put in the hard work and logged the long miles. On Wednesday, the team was enjoying the spoils of its full taper - including some short sprint work followed by an icy soak for weary legs in the Yampa River - as it looks ahead to Saturday's Class 4A Boys State Cross Country Championships.
Now all the Sailors need to focus on is the mental preparation.
"I've been trying to look at the results and show them that they are a top-10 team in the state and can compete with anyone," Steamboat cross-country coach Matt Reinhold said. "We're going to need to keep the spread as small as possible, and they have to run fast."
That shouldn't be a problem for Steamboat, coming off a confidence-boosting regional meet in Delta that had each Steamboat runner (on the boys and girls teams) register a personal best. The Steamboat boys finished in third behind Battle Mountain and Moffat County to qualify for state while the girls finished seventh, not enough for qualification.
Charlie Stoddard, Sam Chovan and Cam Niswander return from the Steamboat squad that qualified for state last year and took 21st place of 24 teams.
But since then, all three runners have each taken a minute, if not more, off their state times from last year.
Chovan is trying to take another 15 seconds off his best Saturday. He hopes to hang tight with Stoddard, Steamboat's pack leader all season, as the Sailors top duo guns to break 17 minutes, 30 seconds.
"Last year, state was really snowy and wet," Chovan said. "There's some gradual uphills, but it should be faster this week, and we're peaking this week."
John Cutter, Jackson Wren, Jack Burger, Garret Ehrick and alternate Buddy Kinder will join the three returning veterans, as the team will try to improve upon an already tight pack - one that had its top-five scoring runners finish 58 seconds apart at regionals.
"We're definitely stronger as a team," Chovan said. "We have a real pack mentality now, so our goal this week is to keep them together and let no one get too far ahead."
Reinhold noted this is the healthiest the team has been in the past four to five weeks.
Stoddard said a finish in the top 10 will still come down to one factor - guts.
The intensity of hundreds of runners channeling down to a single stream of title hopefuls may also push the Sailors.
"We'll go out so quick it'll be ridiculous," Stoddard said. "The huge field will get everyone pumped."
Steamboat departs Friday morning for Colorado Springs. The 4A boys race starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the course located on south end of Colorado Springs, at The Vineyard Golf Course/El Pomar Youth Sports Complex.
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