XC teams statebound

A transplanted team from the Front Range and a broken foot made the regional meet less successful than the Steamboat Springs cross country teams originally hoped, but there wasn't a lot of complaining, as the girls and boys teams advanced to next weekend's state meet.

"I'm pretty psyched about both of our races," coach John Smith said. "Both teams took what was given to them for the race and they had the right attitude to run well."

The girls finished second behind Mullen, a private school in Denver, which was placed in the Western Slope for the second-straight year.

"Really we were the first true team," said Jen Hooper, who finished second overall. "But we were pretty close to Mullen, and we hope to be even closer next week."

Mullen won the meet with 24 points. Steamboat finished second with 55 points. Moffat County was third, and Montrose was fourth. The top four teams from the 10-team field qualified for state.

"We hadn't run against Mullen this year so we didn't know what to expect," Lisl Pearson, who finished eighth overall and second for the Sailors, said. "They were pretty good, but I don't think we had our best team race and we have more we can bring to the table at state."

Steamboat's other female finishers were Lauren Lightfoot-(11th), Katie Conrath-(16th), Tara Wernig-(18th), Sarah MacCarthy-(21st) and Kelli Parnell-(23rd). The top 15 were considered all-region runners.

"The girls really went after it, and hopefully we can keep the Western Slope tradition of finishing strong at state next week," Smith said. "I'm an emotional coach, and they brought that out for me today because I was pumped."

Emotion played a part in the boys race in the form of nervous anticipation as Tyler O'Leary laced on his spikes with a broken left foot. The Sailors' top runner discovered last week that he had been running with a stress fracture. The senior opted to run in the regional race despite the injury and led the Sailors with a 14th-place finish overall.

"(My foot) hurt more than it had before," O'Leary said. "But the rest of the team really stepped up behind me to make the difference."

Alex Miller crossed the finish line in 16th. Davis Miller was 21st. Andy Garber was 22nd. Sam Tarrant was 23rd and Mike Gleason was 24th. Matt Legrice finished 36th.

The tight pack of Steamboat finishers was good enough for the Sailors to come in fourth with 96 points. Mullen completed the team sweep, finishing with 63 points. Moffat County was second, and Montrose was third.

"I knew going in the boys race was going to be tight," Smith said. "Tyler ran on heart today, and our five, six and seven runners stepped it up and we may be without Tyler next week so they'll have to do it even more."

O'Leary was unsure whether or not he would be able to race at state after he was carried by Smith up to the awards ceremony to receive his ribbon.

"One thing I saw today that may be one of my proudest moments as a coach was Moffat County and Steamboat cheering for each other," Smith said. "The 'evil empire' being here may have spurred on the Western Slope cheering, but it is great to see that the two teams can have a respect for each other like that."

With the Steamboat girls finishing ahead of Moffat County, winner of five consecutive regional titles, the torch of Western Slope representation was passed.

"We hope to represent the smaller but just as good schools over here well," Smith said.

The state meet is in Colorado Springs on Saturday.

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