Sailors running toward dominance | SteamboatToday.com

Sailors running toward dominance

Steamboat XC squad eyes regional title

The Steamboat Springs High School cross country will travel Friday to compete at the Class 3A regional cross country meet in Delta. The Sailors' girls team will be one of the top squads competing to advance to the state meet.

— Meg Anderson has long been an endurance athlete, but the Steamboat Springs High School senior never really considered joining the cross country team until this fall.

She's an avid Nordic ski racer, and she plays soccer, and that's proven plenty enough to keep her busy through her high school career.

To be fair, the cross country program itself has changed quite a bit since her freshman year.

Now, she said, it's almost magnetic, a powerfully optimistic, fun-loving group that in a few short seasons has built itself into one of Steamboat Springs High School’s top programs.

The team will compete Friday in the Class 3A regional meet, fighting for a chance to move on to state, and it will do so as one of the favorites.

"We have a strong team," said coach Lisa Renee Tumminello, in her first year as the program's head coach after several years in a co-coaching role.

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"Their hearts for racing are so gigantic," she said. "They are humble young athletes, but they are tenacious in the way they compete and not afraid to take risks."

This year's team has 48 athletes, up from 40 a year ago and up dramatically from about 25 runners two seasons ago.

It's also proven one of the most competitive squads in the area, a program that this season has shown it may be more than any one group of class of talented athletes, but one capable of sustained success.

The girls team is the heart of the renaissance, though Tumminello said the boys aren't far behind. 
The girls team was very good last season, then competing in Class 4A. Steamboat was second in regionals and 13th at state.

The Sailors lost most of the athletes who led the way for that team, however. Three graduated while sophomore Tatum Burger, who was third at the state meet, moved out of the area.

This season had all the makings of a "rebuilding year."

It's been anything but, however. Athletes who were "middle of the pack" a season ago are now competing for top 10 finishes and even winning races while new, young runners have come out for the sport, joined by a few older rookies, like Anderson.

"I heard a lot about how awesome the team dynamic was, that it was a really positive group, and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to be a part of it," said Anderson. "And, I wanted to be coached by Lisa Renee because she's really awesome."

The result is a team poised to win a regional title on Friday and that could head into the Class 3A state meet Oct. 29 in Colorado Springs, with a solid chance at a top-three finish.

Those achievements are certainly still up in the air. The team was reminded this month that nothing's set in stone when Winter Boese, the team's top runner through the first half of the season, slipped during a Homecoming Week activity at Howelsen Ice Arena and broke her arm.

She's one of those athletes who jumped from "solid" a year ago to "outstanding" this fall. She was 26th at last year's regional meet, fifth on the team. Without the injury, she'd be on the shortlist to win this year's regionals.

She did get cleared to run by a doctor Wednesday, but she's unsure how much time her icy mishap could cost her on the trail.

Even with that setback, Steamboat's proven to be a deep enough team that it's still got a great chance to qualify for state. The top four teams from the 12 at the meet will advance.

Freshman Maggi Congdon has stepped in quickly to take over the girls team's top spot. She was third at the team's most recent meet, followed closely by several teammates. Sadie Cotton, who transferred in this season, has been right there. Sophomore Isabelle Boniface, 41st at regionals a year ago, has challenged for the top 10 throughout the season, as has Kandice Kittinger.

"We have a chance to be runner-up or even win state," Boese said. "It's a really cool situation to be in. We have these super cool kids, and we have a lot of motivation that has helped us get to this point."

Soroco to challenge for top finishes

Steamboat isn't the only local team eyeing a successful trip to the regional cross country meet. Soroco, also running in Delta, hopes to qualify several runners to the state meet.

Top on the list is junior Ben Kelley, fourth at the regional meet a year ago and eighth at state. He's been even better so far this season, winning four of his six races. He heads to Delta as one of the favorites in Class 2A.

On the girls side, Chloe Veilleux also can build on a very strong regular season. She was third at regionals a year ago and sixth at state, then has been eighth or better in every race this season.

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