Hooper runs to 25th place | SteamboatToday.com

Hooper runs to 25th place

Melinda Mawdsley

Standing at the start line of the Class 4A state cross-country meet, Steamboat Springs senior Jennifer Hooper did something she hadn’t done in her three previous trips to state — she looked around.

“I absorbed all of it,” she said.

After a restart, because cameramen were in the way, Hooper could be seen rounding the first corner in the front quarter of the pack. There she stayed for the next 5,000 meters, finishing 25th overall in 19 minutes, 48 seconds.

She crossed the finish line and wound through the maze set up to sort out the runners. She shook some hands and let out some tears. This season has been hard for the senior, and Saturday, she finished strong. She was sixth at last weekend’s regional meet.

“It’s more the accomplishment of what I overcame mentally,” she said.

In the three previous seasons, Hooper paid little attention to the thousands lining the state course. Saturday, she heard everything. It may have made it more difficult for her to focus on her race, but she came to the state meet in Colorado Springs wanting to remember her final cross-country competition.

“I kind of wanted to get the last experience of it all,” she said. “I remember people screaming out names. Usually I block it out. There were times when I felt, literally, the emotion.”

Cross-country runners often are associated with quirky and sometimes out-in-left-field personalities, but there are few sports, maybe none at the high school level, that challenge individuals to the point of vomiting and collapsing because their bodies literally can go no more.

Both happened more than once Saturday at the Vineyard Golf Course and El Pomar Sports Complex near Harrison High School.

Boys and girls were staggering toward the finish line, two even crawled, thinking more about being done than whether their legs were capable of going any farther. Meet officials had to carry runners to medical tents. Athletes had to hold each other up. The memories of perseverance and pain will help Hooper as she moves forward, she said.

“Running is something you can apply to all areas of life,” she said. “When you can overcome the pain and struggles, you can overcome anything.”

Summit’s Whitney Anderson won the Class 4A girls race, as expected. One of the nation’s elite prep distance runners, Anderson finished, got her time scanned and was handed a bottle of water before another runner was on the homestretch. She finished in 17:25, the top girls time this year. She was 1:29 ahead of her closest competition.

Buena Vista’s Rachel Gioscia won the Class 3A race in 18:27. Coronado’s Molly Palmer won the Class 5A race in 17:39.

Mountain View won the team title with 87 points. Moffat County was the surprise runnerup with 147 points. The Bulldogs’ Amelia Parker finished third in 19:01.

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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