The race for state

Cross country runners prepare for regionals

Practices. Meets. Even afternoons spent in the pool or in the training room. Everything the Steamboat Springs cross country runners have done since summer has been geared toward the next two weekends.

Delta's Confluence Park hosts Saturday's 10-team regional meet. The top four boys teams and the top four girls teams advance to the state meet Oct. 25 in Colorado Springs. The top 15 individual finishers, assuming their school doesn't advance, automatically qualify, as well.

The Sailors would rather go as a team, and both the boys and girls teams have more than a realistic shot at finishing among the top four.

Steamboat's girls want to win and upset top-ranked Mullen, a team placed in the Western region despite its Denver location.

"We have a really strong team, and I think everyone is confident," Lisl Pearson said.

The seven female runners representing Steamboat are seniors Pearson, Lauren Lightfoot and Tara Wernig; juniors Jennifer Hopper, Katie Conrath and Kelli Parnell; and sophomore Sarah MacCarthy.

The seven males running in Delta are seniors Tyler O'Leary, Alex Miller, Davis Miller and Matt Legrice; juniors Mike Gleason and Andy Garber; and sophomore Sam Tarrant.

Of the seven runners' finishes, five will count toward the final team score.

Steamboat coach John Smith had high hopes for the 2003 Steamboat girls team because of its experience and depth heading into the season. That hasn't changed.

The boys team, however, has been a pleasant surprise, Smith said. The additions of the Miller brothers and Garber, all Nordic combined athletes, has played a major role in Steamboat's success as the overall team continues to improve meet to meet.

Injuries and illnesses have hampered the Sailors in recent weeks, but Smith said everyone was heading in the right direction physically, though several runners won't be at 100 percent Saturday. However, all his runners -- both boys and girls -- are mentally prepared to run, and run well.

Delta's course is the standard 3.1 miles in length, but it only gains one foot in elevation, making Saturday's regional cross country meet more like a track meet on a dirt road around a pond.

The course is fast, Smith said, which plays a role in how his team runs the race.

Alex Miller's strategy is much like that of his teammates.

"I'll probably go out hard and get my spot and then try to keep the tempo," he said.

The 9 other teams in Steamboat's region are Battle Mountain, Delta, Glenwood Springs, Moffat County, Montezuma-Cortez, Montrose, Mullen, Palisade and Rifle.

On the girls side, the favorites to claim state spots are Steamboat, Moffat County, Mullen and Glenwood Springs. On the boys side, the favorites are Moffat County, Mullen, Montrose and Steamboat.

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