Lighting the fire: Steamboat track team eager to build to success |

Lighting the fire: Steamboat track team eager to build to success

Steamboat Springs High School track coach Erik Ramstad races with a parachute during a recent practice. The track team had 34 athletes out this season and hopes that can be a springboard to the future.

— It was a fun day of practice April 30 for the Steamboat Springs High School track team.

Coaches hauled out equipment for that day's training, a set of parachutes to strap to athletes' backs to aid in resistance training, and several bungee cords, meant to be connected to two runners. One would take off, and as soon as the cord was taut, the second runner would be yanked along, pulled up to speed in a flash.

And it was a hit. The Sailors laughed their way through the day's workouts, enjoying racing one another with the parachutes and trying to keep up with the bungie cords.

Healthy, athletic, fun, all in one day, exactly what a new band of coaches hope to see from the Sailors' track team.

But it's not that simple, either, as they hope to build a program capable of more than just good times after school and a few competitive meets against teams from across the region.

Steamboat hopes to produce a strong track program, and there's no shortage of people willing to help it reach that goal.

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Guidance aplenty

Steamboat Springs has a long winning track tradition, one that includes five team state championships, but the program has withered in recent years. It hasn't sent an athlete to the state meet since 2011 and hasn't scored a point there since 2006.

While last year's team represented a step forward — the team doubled its participation from about a dozen in 2012 — this year's helps define the program as coaches now see it.

Its veins are overflowing with new blood.

That includes the coaches.

Erik Ramstad and Lisa Renee Tumminello stepped in this spring — taking on the job just days before the season's initial parents meeting — and they were able to recruit a veteran coaching staff the likes of which no Steamboat track team in recent memory has known.

There are seven coaches this season. In addition to Ramstad and Tumminello, Kate Hunt is helping with jumps, sprints and pole vault. Gavin Graham is coaching throws. Glen Light is assisting in the middle-distance running events, and Erin Light is helping with jumps. Doug Tumminello is acting as an assistant coach.

"Everyone was pretty eager to help, and it's been a lot of fun," Ramstad said.

They've found plenty of fans in the students, too. This year's team has 34 athletes, nearly three times the number that competed two years ago.

"We have so many new kids this year who never would have done track before," said Meg O'Connell, a senior on the team.

She was one of the team's top scoring athletes a year ago but found herself burnt out by running and her own competitiveness.

A more relaxed attitude this year has reminded her why she originally loved running.

"I got too serious," she said. "Now I really love it again, and I'm having such a good time this year. It's so much fun."

Building up

It's not like the Sailors slogged through miserable practices a year ago, however. Those athletes had some fun, too.

This year's squad likely won't end up with much better marks competitively than last year's, either. Saturday marked the season's final meet, and Steamboat entered the weekend a long shot to have anyone listed on the state track meet start sheet when it's released Sunday.

Is this really a program on the rise? The athletes and coaches are resounding in their answer: Yes. They're happy with the turnout. They hope to continue to grow the team, and they're confident the results will come.

"We have to develop the relationships. We have to be ambassadors," Lisa Renee Tumminello said. "Already it's so fun to hear the positive feedback from people outside the program, watching. The athletes are talking about it and they're excited.

"We don't need a massive rebuild, but we want to dive in and figure out how we can make track really benefit the students in the community."

Of course, success doesn't have to be measured by who toes the starting line this week at state track. Steamboat's coaches point to plenty of success on the squad, athletes pushing their personal bests in events all year, trying and succeeding in new events and, most of all, enjoying every moment.

"There are so many students who can benefit from a sport like track and field," Tumminello said. "We want to ignite that fire so it keeps going. There are students in Steamboat who have the talent and gifts, absolutely."

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