Hayden, Soroco to go head to head in 800 at state track meet | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden, Soroco to go head to head in 800 at state track meet

Chloe Veilleux leads the field in the 800 during a meet at Moffat County High School last month. Veilleux was strong enough this season to qualify for the state championships in five different events. She'll need to cut back, however, as athletes can only compete in four events at one meet.

— Plenty of big events await before and after, but for local athletes and fans, the drama may not be more ratcheted up than it will be just after noon on Friday — the second day of the state track and field championships, which begin Thursday in Lakewood.

High School runners and jumpers from Steamboat Springs, in Class 3A, and Hayden and Soroco, in Class 2A, have strong shots at state championships in more than half a dozen events. There's only one, however, where athletes from two of those schools will be running for the same crown.

Hayden freshman Hannah Wilkie will enter Friday's 800-meter race with the field's best time. Soroco sophomore Chloe Veilleux is right on her heels with the field's fourth-fastest time.

"It should be a great race," Soroco coach David Bruner said. "We're really looking forward to it."

Wilkie's time of 2 minutes, 19.44 seconds sets the pace for the 18-runner field. It's considerably better than any other Class 2A girl has run the event this season, nearly four seconds ahead of Soleil Gaylord of Telluride, who has the state's second-best time.

Veilleux ran her best race in 2:24.60, a little more than five seconds behind Wilkie.

There's plenty of respect passed back and forth between the two camps.

"Hannah's a great kid," Bruner said. "We've watched her run and know her well, and I'm really proud of what she's done this year."

Still, there's been plenty of gamesmanship. Despite both being standouts in the event and attending most of the same meets, the girls have rarely raced each other.

Wilkie has run the 800 five times this season. She won the last four of those races, steadily lowering her time every event, a total of 16 seconds from her very first varsity attempt.

Her best time came at one of the most recent meets, the Western Slope League Championships May 5 in Grand Junction.

Veilleux, meanwhile, has run the 800 three times and won two of those three. 
She's only run head to head against Wilkie once, however. Wilkie won that race April 8 at Eagle Valley, getting the win against a fierce foursome of Routt County competitors.

She was first, in 2:26.18. Winter Boese, racing in the 800 in Class 3A for Steamboat Springs, was second in that race in 2:26.73. Veilleux was third at 2:26.94 and Maggi Congdon, another Steamboat athlete running the 800 at state, was fourth in 2:33.00.

Boese and Congdon will be out of the picture at state, but little more than half a second separated Wilkie and Veilleux.

Wilkie has done well dominating races from the gun, pushing her tall frame down the track early to open up a big lead on the first lap.

Veilleux has shown more aptitude for longer races. She'll also compete in the 300 hurdles at state but will run the 1,600 and 3,200 races, too. She won the Class 2A girls cross country championship in the fall, hanging near the leaders throughout then putting in a huge kick when she needed it.

She could do the same with that kick in Lakewood.

"She's got some pretty good speed for a distance kid," Bruner said. "She has a lot of heart, which makes her special, but Hannah has a lot of heart, too. It should really be fun, and hopefully, we'll have two Routt County kids going for the state title."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9