State meet highlights potential of Sailors cross country | SteamboatToday.com

State meet highlights potential of Sailors cross country

Steamboat Sailors runner Sam Chovan races in a cross-country meet at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs on Saturday morning. Chovan finished the boys division race in fourth place.

Steamboat Springs — When Matt Reinhold took the job as the Steamboat Springs High School cross-country coach three days before the start of the season, he had few expectations. A few of his runners may even have had doubts. — When Matt Reinhold took the job as the Steamboat Springs High School cross-country coach three days before the start of the season, he had few expectations. A few of his runners may even have had doubts.

— When Matt Reinhold took the job as the Steamboat Springs High School cross-country coach three days before the start of the season, he had few expectations. A few of his runners may even have had doubts.

“I was really worried about the season,” Sailors runner Sam Chovan said. “But the Sunday before we were supposed to get started I got a call and Matt told me he was going to be our coach.”

Reinhold had only a couple of days to prepare for the team’s first official practice, and he didn’t know the runners or much at all about the team he would lead in the 2007 season.

“I knew a lot of the team’s top runners had graduated, and I could look at the results from last year’s state cross-country championships. But that was about all I had,” Reinhold said.

So instead of focusing on what the team had done in the past, Reinhold focused on giving the 17 runners the best opportunity for success in the future.

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“I knew it was going to be a building season,” he said.

The girls team – plagued by injuries all season – turned in a respectable seventh-place finish at regionals behind strong showings from Brittany Long, who led the team with a 21st-place finish despite a stress fracture, and senior Alyssa Walter, who turned in the best time of her high school career (22 minutes, 37 seconds) in her final race. The regional meet was one of the few times this season that the girls team had five runners healthy enough to compete.

“It was a really gutsy showing for those girls,” Reinhold said. “I’m proud of what they accomplished and their perseverance this season.”

But even more impressive for Steamboat were the eight members of the boys team that finished third in regionals and earned the right to run at the state cross-country meet in Colorado Springs.

At the regional meet, the boys found strength in one another. Junior Charlie Stoddard (17:35), senior Chovan (17:45), junior John Cutter (18:08), senior Jackson Wren (18:14) and freshman Jack Burger (18:30) finished within 58 seconds of one another. Senior Cam Niswander and sophomore Garret Ehrick also recorded personal bests en route to qualifying for state.

Although the news from the state meet, which was held Saturday at the El Pomar Sports Complex in Colorado Springs, wasn’t as good, Reinhold said it was a better performance for Steamboat than the final results indicate.

Stoddard led the team in the elite field, finishing 96th with a time of 18:25.91. He was the only Steamboat runner to break the top 100. Chovan finished with a time of 18:42.66 (119), Wren finished at 18:51.06 (125), and Cutter finished at 18:54.61 (130). Burger (161), Ehrick (175) and Niswander (177) also finished the race.

“Just making it to state was a great accomplishment for our team,” Chovan said. “Last year we had one fast runner and the rest of us just held on. This year we came together to work, race and act more like a team.”

D’Evelyn senior Kevin Williams, who finished the race in a blistering time of 15:43.81, won the individual state title. Battle Mountain senior Jonny Stevens was fourth with a time of 16:42.26. Stevens’ showing helped Battle Mountain win the team title with 55 points. Liberty was second, Niwot was third, and D’Evelyn was fourth. Steamboat finished last, but Reinhold said the finish may have been the result of the team’s desire to break into the top 10.

“Our runners took a chance,” Reinhold said. “They knew that they had nothing to lose since this was the last race, and they went out hard in the first mile.”

Early on it looked like the gamble would pay off as three Steamboat runners set personal best marks in the first mile of the 3.1-mile race. But in the final stretch, the Steamboat runners fell off the pace.

“We knew going in that our runners were going to need personal best times to get into the top 10 as a team,” Reinhold said. “They went for it, and they left it all on the course. They have no regrets.”

Still, Reinhold said he is proud of the efforts of the Steamboat runners and thinks things are only going to get better as the Sailors keep building for the future. The coach said he already has sat down at his computer and started working on summer training programs.