Cream of the crop |

Cream of the crop

State cross-country meet highlight for Steamboat

Melinda Mawdsley

By many accounts, this year’s state cross-country championship field is as talented and deep as any in recent memory, making it a treat and a privilege to qualify.

“It’s kind of icing on the cake,” Steamboat Springs coach Glen Light said about earning a trip to Saturday’s championship. “We will go and try and get our best race of the year — timewise — because the course has that potential. Because of the depth, we won’t place top three or top five, but I think top 10 is doable.”

The Sailors qualified the boys team of senior Kieran Corrigan, junior Matt Hill, senior Sam Tarrant, freshman Charlie Stoddard, sophomore Lee Wren, freshman Bryce Gordon and sophomore T.J. Anderson after they placed fourth at the regional meet Saturday in Palisade.

Freshman Cassady Roberts placed in the top 15 in the girls regional race to qualify as an individual, as well. Roberts had placed in the 30s on the same course Oct. 14, making the state-qualifying run even more surprising.

“Somebody like Cassady could have another breakthrough-type event because she is so naturally competitive and will want to be up there in the mix,” Light said.

Given the talent and depth — the state field includes some of the top prep runners in the nation — there is no expectation that the boys or Roberts will walk out with a state title or even a top-25 individual finish on the five-kilometer course at The Vineyard Golf Course/El Pomar Youth Sports Complex in Colorado Springs.

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“The pressure is off now,” said Corrigan, who attends Soroco High School.

Now, it is about having fun.

“We did a harder workout on Monday to shock their body back into it after tapering all last week,” Light said. “They were a little bummed they had to run hard on Monday, but it was good to get that in. We have backed off the pressure. They are all excited for the whole scene.”

Corrigan, Hill and Tarrant are familiar with the course and the mass craziness of the state cross-country meet. The Class 5A, 4A and 3A races are decided at the same venue — albeit at different times — but the sheer number of runners and spectators makes the Colorado Springs course an exciting place to be.

“It’s really fast at the start,” Corrigan said, recalling last year’s race. “It’s about keeping your cool and not getting blown out at the beginning.”

The start is considered the most important element of running well at state. The course at the El Pomar Youth Sports Complex is about 500 meters from a funnel area that spreads out the field.

Unless a runner attacks at the start, he or she will be stepped on and pushed aside near the first turn.

“We worked on starts and had Kieran, Matt and Sammy pass on that advice,” Light said. “It will be chaotic, but you have to fight for position. We also talked about the mental thing about being with the cream of the crop.”

The cream of the state field this year is Denver South’s Mohamud Ige. He will run with the Steamboat boys, but the Olympic hopeful’s qualifying time of 15 minutes, 1.2 seconds has him finishing nearly half a minute ahead of anyone else.

The Class 4A boys will run at 10:30 a.m. The Class 4A girls will run at noon. Both groups run the same 5K routes.

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail