Looking back: Meek, runners reflect on 1975 title | SteamboatToday.com
Melinda Mawdsley

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Looking back: Meek, runners reflect on 1975 title

— As a sport, track didn’t get much recognition in Steamboat Springs until 1974, when Mike Streeter, hurdler extraordinaire, won the 120-yard high hurdles and the 180-yard low hurdles.

But Steamboat made history in 1975 when the boys captured the Class 2A state championship at the University of Colorado’s all-surface track. This month marks the 30th anniversary of the team’s title, a title that sparked a surge in Steamboat track and field. Between 1975 and 1982, the Sailors won four state titles and finished second once. Fourteen school records from the era remain on the board hanging near the entrance of Kelly Meek Gymnasium.

Meek was the track coach when the boys won in 1975, and his memory of the day’s events are as crisp today as the weather was on May 17, 1975.

“The weather was brutal that day,” Meek said. “No one warmed up for events. They sat in cars. It was hailing. It was windy. We had never won the (1,600-meter relay), and we had to win it to win the meet.”

The four boys who ran the 1,600-meter relay that day — Streeter, Sam Pilloud, Greg Romberg and Chuck Bailey — gathered in the driver’s education car for a pep talk. (Meek also taught driver’s education and brought the car to Boulder.)

Streeter, who lives in Alamosa, remembers the conversation between four young men and their coach.

“Kelly said, ‘You know fellas, we need to win the mile relay, and it’s something we need to do. We haven’t had to put it together, but we need to. I know it’s cold and windy, and you won’t get a good time, but the other teams are in the same situation,'” Streeter said. “Then Kelly said, ‘Taking second is like kissing your sister.’ I know Chuck said, ‘I wouldn’t mind kissing Sam’s sister,’ and that loosened things help, which helped us out.”

The four left the car to warm up and went on to win the race. Streeter got the baton 5 yards behind the leader and covered 15 yards on his anchor leg, as the Sailors went on to win the meet.

The team title alleviated the individual disappointment several Steamboat athletes had after failing to meet expectations in other events. Streeter did not repeat in either hurdle event. Chris Lausten, despite having two of the state’s best throws in the shot put and discus, only placed fourth in the discus. Bailey didn’t make his individual finals. But Pilloud unexpectedly won the triple jump title, and Jared Doxey lifted the team with an equally unexpected third-place finish in the high jump.

Pilloud also passed up a possible high finish in the open 400 meters to save himself for the 1,600-meter relay. Pilloud, who now lives near Seattle, remembers seeing nearly an inch of water standing in his lane and, knowing it would be difficult to run well in the conditions, opted to pull up after the first 200 meters.

“We had a long, intense season, with a number of injuries,” Pilloud said. “We didn’t practice outdoors, and I wasn’t able to practice much at all. The rain just got to me.”

But he came back to help Steamboat win the 1,600-meter relay. Streeter credits the reserved Pilloud for believing in the Sailors early on and convincing others the team had the potential to be successful during the course of the season.

“After winning large meets in Grand Junction and Delta, we were on the bus and Sam said we could go undefeated and could do well at state,” Streeter said. “I’m going to credit him for that. We started to gel as a group. The kids on that team were pretty close and focused. We had really good chemistry.”

The same problems Steamboat encounters today, with inclement weather and the inability to get on a track as early as schools in warmer climates, were magnified in the mid-1970s.

For one, the Sailors did not have an all-weather track. They hurdled and worked on baton exchanges in hallways. Jumpers and pole vaulters landed in gymnastics pits. Sometimes the boys and girls ran outside on the pavement, but Streeter said shin splints and hamstring injuries were commonplace because of it.

“We’d go to meets and stay longer so the field guys could utilize the facilities,” Streeter said.

Still, Steamboat found a way to go undefeated in 1975. The 1980 and 1981 teams were undefeated, as well.

“I was lucky to get good kids out,” Meek said. “We’d go to meets and our kids were fired up. They were an exceptional group of athletes. From 1979 to 1982, it was the most athletic group of kids to come through this school by far in terms of number of athletes.”

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawd sley@steamboatpilot.com