Runners on pace for state title | SteamboatToday.com

Runners on pace for state title

Melinda Mawdsley

— Kieran Corrigan admits it’s selfish, but he can’t help but notice that the two 1,600-meter runners who beat him at last year’s state meet have graduated.

He has one of the state’s top times in the event this season — 4 minutes, 43 seconds — and he didn’t even mean to run that fast. After all, his personal best is a 4:42 set last year at state when he placed third in the 1,600.

So when he thinks about the upcoming 2006 Class 2A State Track and Field Championships in Pueblo, a city that has become a favorite for Soroco’s athletes, his eyes glisten beneath the spring sun.

“I realize it is my event,” Corrigan said. “When I came into state last year, I didn’t realize I was rated fifth. Looking at these four guys ahead of me and all those guys behind me, I’m like, ‘Am I really supposed to be here?'”

Fast-forward one year. Now a senior, Corrigan represents one of the Rams’ best chances at a state championship. Track and field state titles in Soroco have become as much a part of spring as prom.

The Rams have won nine state championships since 2003, including Andy deGanahl’s five individual 200 and 400 titles between 2003 and 2005. The loss of a senior class rich in talent, speed and numbers, however, cast some doubt as to how Soroco’s 2006 campaign would go.

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Unless, of course, you are on this year’s team.

“It would be fun to go back and win something at state,” Corrigan said. “I know, it’s kind of a selfish thing to look at, but the two people who beat me in the mile are gone.”

State-bound

With three weeks remaining, the Rams already have qualified nine athletes for state, not counting alternates.

Corrigan qualified in the 1,600 and 800. He also teamed up with Kyle Hendrickson, Steve Meade and Johnny DeCosta to qualify for state on Friday in the 1,600-meter relay. Senior Nick Rangel qualified in the discus, and senior Kyla Schmidt and freshman Genessa Heide qualified in the 400 and 200, respectively.

Schmidt, Heide, Glenda Long and Toni Lombardi also qualified for state in the 400-meter relay on Friday.

Other relays are close.

Rangel, Schmidt and Corr–igan have been the constants for the Rams. Corrigan and Rangel have been running track since they were freshmen. Schmidt, the only senior girl on the team, took another path.

“Everyone I talked to was forcing me to go out for track my freshman year, so I didn’t do it to prove that I wasn’t going to do anything people tell me to do,” Schmidt said. “I did want to go out for track, so I came out my sophomore year and stuck with it. I do love it.”

It is that independent spirit that sets Schmidt apart from many female sprinters in Class 2A. A petite athlete, Schmidt has to sprint twice as hard to counter the strides of taller runners. No problem.

Last year, she took the baton as the 400-meter anchor of the 800-meter medley team and passed five people en route to the state title.

“Coach got out old videos of state last year, and he was showing us the medley, and that helps,” Schmidt said. “If I did it once, of course I can do it again, and even better.”

Rams coach Gary Heide said he appreciates Schmidt. She spent her sophomore and junior years on relays instead of focusing on individual events, in which she excels. To repay her, Heide told Schmidt this was her year to shine.

A strong sprinter and long jumper, Schmidt finds herself on two relays — the 400 and 1,600-meter relays — so she will have to give up an individual event at some point because she can compete in only four events. She already is committed to the 400.

“We had this talk,” she said. “He feels bad. I feel like I’m in a great spot. It’s nice to have those relays, but I have my own events, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

Cool runnings

Corrigan, on the other hand, has developed an anchor mentality. Once a hockey player, running was something to do for conditioning. Not anymore, and he credits Heide.

“I am a runner,” Corrigan said. “He’s instilled a belief in me that I can do well at running.”

Corrigan has evolved before everyone’s eyes. Tall, lanky and unsure during his freshman and most of his sophomore years, Corrigan now uses his height to stride out and fight for every second. He is the anchor for the 3,200 and 1,600-meter relays. He helped make middle-distance running “cool” in South Routt.

“The outcome of actually running is amazing,” Corrigan said. “Before a race, your stomach is in knots, and you don’t know if you can do this. Even now, as a senior, I still get that feeling where I don’t know if I can run that fast. After you begin the race, you begin to feel the conditioning taking over and your mind shutting off. I’m very in tune with my body, which is good because I know I’m not peaking yet.”

Thrown into it

As a thrower, Rangel is more outsider than outcast. Heide doesn’t know much about shot put or discus, so Rangel has done much of the work on his own. He has worked with four coaches during his four years in the events.

This year, Steamboat’s throwing coaches, Ken Brenner and Mike Hill, have taken a liking to Rangel.

“It’s hard to find good coaches,” Rangel said. “They are willing to work with me. Then, I help our other kids.”

Rangel has been on the cusp of qualifying for state in recent years, but he came up short. This year, he is headed to state in the discus. He has a chance to qualify in the shot put, as well.

“I didn’t really care about state qualifying,” he said, dismissing the honor. “It’s about just trying to do my best. This year, I’ve set my records four times and broke them three times. That’s all I care about — improving every time.”

Instead of just sitting around the throwing areas during meets, Rangel also competes in the 100 meters and the 400-meter relay, which helps score additional points for the team.

“I don’t like to be a lazy thrower,” he said. “It’s just fun. I kind of have some speed under me anyway.”

Record breakers

Corrigan, Schmidt and Rangel own or share a combined nine school records. Schmidt’s name is on the wall next to every relay but the 3,200. Other than a smattering of school records set in the 1980s, the Rams have overhauled the record books during the past four years.

“It’s kind of a privilege to be out for track,” Schmidt said.

That is best seen in the program’s growing numbers and in its hidden talent.

Out for track for the first time this season, Hendrickson, a senior, is a key member of the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relay teams and may sneak in as a qualifier in the 400. Soroco is emerging as a haven of talented 400 and 800 runners.

Freshman Sarajane Rossi is poised to break the school’s 800-meter record.

The current record holder? Long. She’s a sophomore, and they are on the same 1,600-meter relay team that set a school record Friday night.

Heide and those already participating in track have done some recruiting, but the program’s reputation and results have done the rest.

“I know I won’t be here, but I want to get a track laid down for these kids,” she said. “It would be nice to get our community to help pitch in and get a track. It’s going to continue growing every year.”