Steamboat Springs Middle schoolers and their parents pushed around the finish line as the final runners of the final race sped toward the finish of Wednesday's middle school track meet in Hayden.
When the race was finally over, there was barely even room for the victorious team to celebrate, but they managed nonetheless, whooping and hollering like they hadn't all day.
There's nothing like this in the Olympics, nothing like this at the high school state track meet or anywhere else.
There's nothing like the banana relay.
"Bananas have been my food since I was a baby, but I've never eaten one that fast," Hayden sixth-grader Millie Delaney said, licking the last bits of victory off her fingers."
The concept - and, as it turns out, the strategy - is simple. Four athletes sprint around the track, replicating the 400-meter relay. Only this time, there's a fifth team member. The running team members carry the banana - serving as the baton - around the track and off to the final competitor whose sole purpose is to devour that banana.
First one with an empty mouth wins.
"We're the Bananinators," Delaney said. "Our strategy is go as fast as you can."
Collin Krause chomped his Soroco boys eighth-grade team to victory. He devoured his team's baton in three large bites and threw his arms up in victory.
It turned out to be icing on the banana for his Rams. Krause won every event he entered Wednesday, adding 100, 200, shot put and 800 relay championships to the bag of candy that came with his team's banana relay title.
"This was my best day yet," Krause said. "I was one foot off the school shot put record, then we were two seconds off the record for the relay."
He was joined in perfection by Nic Paxton, who also ran on the 800 relay and won the triple jump, long jump and 400.
Together they powered the Soroco eighth-grade boys to a first place finish. They finished with 74 points, ahead of Hayden's 48.
"This was a really good day," said Paxton, who shattered the school record in the triple jump with a leap of 35 feet, 11 inches. "I've been working to beat that triple jump record, and today, I finally did it."
The Soroco eighth-grade girls - all four of them - were equally impressive. The team won seven events and placed second in four more.
Josie Rossi won the 800, 1,600, 400 and high jump while Micaela Meyer won the 200, 100 hurdles and 100 dash.
Soroco also got strong finishes from its sixth-grade teams, which placed second.
"We only have 23 kids out between sixth and eighth grades, but they all scored really well," Soroco coach Sam McLeod said.
Home team Hayden also fared well. The Tigers didn't finish below second in any division. The eighth-grade boys and girls were second behind Soroco, and the seventh-grade boys were runners up after a dominant West Grand squad.
The seventh-grade girls and sixth-grade teams won. The seventh-graders easily outpaced West Grand, 59 points to 20. The sixth-grade boys beat out Soroco by 19 points, and the girls beat Soroco by 29.
Hayden raked in the points from the javelin, an event making its debut Wednesday not only in Hayden middle school track, but also in the entire region.
Eighth-grader Mark Doolin had the longest throw, beating out classmate Aaron Cramer. Seventh-graders Josh St. Clair and Morgan Howe won their divisions, and Sam Skos won among the sixth-grade boys.
"Things went very well," Hayden coach Sally Brach-Morton said. "Winning was nice, and we had two second places, so our teams did well."
Errol Ormesher, in the hurdles, and Cramer, in the discus, also picked up championships for Hayden's eighth-grade boys. Kayla Dunckley won the eighth-grade girls discus. Howe, Becca Hoza and Olivia Zehner each won two events for the seventh-grade girls. Liam Delaney won twice for the seventh-grade boys.
Matt Hamilton, Thomas Rauch and Jack Redmond won events for the sixth-grade boys while Delaney, Jordan Temple and Cassidy Holmes finished first in events for the sixth-grade girls. The Hayden sixth-grade girls also won the 400 relay.
Soroco picked up championships from Nicholas Peters, Kellen Garrity, Jessica Rossi and Leah Walorski.
- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail email@example.com