Sailors stun with 7th-place finish | SteamboatToday.com

Sailors stun with 7th-place finish

Maggi Congdon, left, celebrates with Annika Malacinski after the Steamboat Springs High School girls 3,200-meter relay team finished seventh at the Class 3A state track meet on Saturday in Lakewood. The team hadn't expected to medal after an injury sidelined one of its top runners. Malacinski filled in, however, and the team went on to record its best time of the season and earn what was a first state medal for each of its members.

The hopes and dreams of the Steamboat Springs High School girl track 3,200-meter relay team took a dive — or seemed to, anyway — more than a month before the Class 3A state track meet, an inadvertent crash, to be sure, but a dive all the same, across the finish line at the end of an 800-meter race at Eagle Valley High School in early April.

Steamboat's Siera Harrison was closing in on the end of the race with a pack of competitors and went tumbling across the finish line. She hit the ground hard and sat up with a broken collarbone.

That didn't stop Harrison from staying with the team. She was at practice all season and, arm still in a sling, made the trip to the state meet Saturday to cheer for her friends. But what hope did the 3,200 relay team have without one of its four legs? The Steamboat program is deeper than it’s been in years, but all four girls capable of running an 800 were already on the relay.

Coaches first suggested the girls might want to skip that event at state, and if they didn't, pulling a sprinter in to fill that last leg, they should simply enjoy the experience and be emotionally prepared to finish at the back of the pack.

"We want to run," Maggi Congdon said last week, looking ahead to state. "I always have more fun in the 4×8."

And, while they're running, they might as well try hard and see what happens, right?

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What happened was a jaw-dropping performance they won't soon forget.

The three regular distances runners, Congdon, Isabelle Boniface and Winter Boese, helped advance the team, and the fill-in sprinter, Annika Malacinski, did more than enough.

The result was a stunning seventh-place finish, seemingly forgettable in a day filled with record-breaking performances and state championships.

Four girls from Steamboat will never forget this one, however.

"It's amazing," Boese said. "Since it was so surprising, we were so excited."

Congdon, a state qualifier in the individual 800, took the first leg, and she had the Sailors in fourth after two laps.

Malacinski then handled the second leg, even though she hadn't run a competitive 800 in her career.

"At first, I thought, 'No way,'" she said of the opportunity. "Then, I started to open up to it and figured I could try."

She didn't have fun, at least not during the race. "Horrible," was her one-word assessment of running an 800 afterward. But, she was fast enough, handing the baton to Boniface with the Sailors still in the hunt, in 13th.

Bonfiace was running her second race of the day. She placed 13th in the 3,200 Saturday morning, so her legs were already a little wobbly. She managed to pick up ground, however, and turned the baton over to Boese, Steamboat's anchor leg, in 10th.

Boese, the team's top individual 800 runner and also a state qualifier in that event, then went to work. She blew by three more teams, and when she finally came thundering down the homestretch, the Sailors had climbed all the way into the medals.

They even clipped a second off their previous season-best time, 10 minutes, 9.24 seconds.

The girls met in the stadium infield with huge hugs and a celebration that went on and on. They paused to look at the scoreboard and double check their time and place, then went back to hugging and laughing. Their jubilation carried on even longer than the actual state champs, Peak to Peak Charter School, which set the Class 3A state meet record in the race at 9:12.44.

It was the first state medal for all four girls on the team. Two, Congdon and Boese, have two races each waiting on Sunday, the 1,600 and 800. Both are threats to medal, and perhaps even win, both events. Nothing, however, may live up to Saturday, a medal the squad wasn't expecting, but one it earned, nonetheless.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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