Busy weekend

Prep sports begin after holiday break

— High school sports resume this week, and for prep teams, the real season starts.

Although December games and matches count in the overall record, the league seasons begin this weekend, and league records go a long way in determining postseason seedings and success.

The Steamboat Springs boys basketball team is seeking its third straight Western Slope League crown. The Sailors are 4-4 overall, but they played a tough tournament schedule against teams with more height, more size and more experience.

"I feel real good about the advances we made during the preseason," Sailors coach Kelly Meek said. "We played a great schedule with our young, inexperienced team. I feel we made a lot of headway."

Steamboat's boys and girls basketball teams open on the road with games against Delta tonight and Palisade on Friday. It is the longest road trip of the league season for the Sailors, but it will be out of the way early.

"We have one problem this week, and that is that we've had a tremendous amount of illnesses," Meek said "A lot of these kids have been in and out, so we don't know where we are at, but we are excited about getting to conference play. Like I said to them, 'Find a way.'"

The Steamboat girls are 2-6 overall. They got off to a similarly slow start last year before turning things around in the league season. The Sailors have been off from competition since Dec. 17, but they have a chance to get off to a good start in league play.

Soroco and Hayden's basketball teams also open league play tonight. The Soroco boys and girls travel to Rangely, and Hayden hosts West Grand at 7 p.m. today at Hayden High School.

The Tigers host league newcomer Coal Ridge from New Castle at 4 p.m. Saturday in Hayden.

Wrestling works differently than basketball. Head-to-head league team records aren't as important as an individual's record against a league opponent. Regional seedings are based on head-to-head league records, and those regional seedings make the road to the state tournament easier or more difficult.

Hayden and Soroco travel to Paonia for a Saturday tournament. Hayden also will wrestle Sanford today in Paonia. The Rams and Tigers will face a heavy dose of regional competition today and Saturday.

The Tigers are making a switch, with freshman Mitchell Doolin opting to stay at 125 pounds. Junior Dusty Jones is going to move up to 130 pounds.

"This will be a tough month," Tigers coach Ty Zabel said. "We've had a good week of practice."

Steamboat is in a different situation. For the first time this season, the Sailors will square off against quality regional competition Saturday at the Eagle Valley Tournament in Gypsum.

More than half of a wrestler's matches have to be at the weight class he plans to enter at the regional level, so wrestlers have to lock in their weights soon. Less than one month remains until the end of the regular season.

Steamboat's hockey team opened up the 2006 portion of the schedule with a 3-2 win against Battle Mountain on Wednesday, and the Sailors (6-0 overall) open league play at 6:30 p.m. today against Air Academy. The Kadets of the Colorado Springs are the defending state champions. Steamboat hosts league opponent Doherty at 1:15 p.m. Saturday. Both games are at Howelsen Ice Arena.

Steamboat's ski teams resume competition today with Alpine and Nordic races. The slalom race begins at 8:45 a.m. at Howelsen Hill. The freestyle, or skate, cross-country race begins at 3 p.m. at Steamboat Ski Touring Center.

--- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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