Steamboat happy to have family atmosphere back with no limitations this season

Bowden Tumminello returns to the Steamboat Springs cross country team as a senior this year. He’s hoping to earn a new personal-best time, but mostly wants to enjoy his senior season.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Last year, when many sports could hardly compete and practice, cross country teams could continue their season with few changes. The biggest change, however, was a limited number of runners could attend each meet. So, the Steamboat Springs team had a practice squad and a traveling squad. That slightly diminished the family spirit of cross country.

This year, the Sailors are happy that rule is no longer in effect and the entire squad can lace up and crowd the starting line together.

“It’s so much support and it’s like a big family we all have,” senior Kelsey Hamilton said. “Having everybody there just makes you feel so good. Cheering everybody on is a big part. … It was so different to not warm up with 60 people and your team chants.”

Each race, the top runners competed, while the younger and less experienced runners stayed at home, looking forward to a season in which they could run regardless of their finishing time.

“We are not usually that team,” said assistant coach Kelly Boniface. “We are usually all inclusive, everybody gets to go, everybody gets to race. For us to not be able to do that was hard for us and hard for them.”

Boniface and head coach Lisa Renee Tumminello also noticed there is an influx of new runners across age groups this year. They suspect some were too intimidated to start a sport last year when it was harder to make friends and compete with the pandemic limitations.

In 2021, with the entire team traveling together, Hamilton’s main goal is to soak up the feeling of the team and enjoy her final fall in a Sailors uniform.

“I’m not looking for anything this season,” she said. “It’s going to be a good senior season, (I’ll) meet new people and have fun competing.”

Senior Courtney Vargas echoed a similar sentiment.

“I want to try and be a good role model for the younger kid,” Vargas said. “It was a weird transition. I want all the underclassmen to really fall in love with the sport like I did.”

Senior Bowden Tumminello said the same thing. He wants to make sure the younger kids develop the same passion for cross country that the senior class has, carrying on the legacy of a passionate, family-feeling Sailors team.

Of course, they want to do well too. Tumminello will be one of the top male runners and is seeking a sub 16-minute time. He thinks that the spring track season hinted at a lot of talent on this team and the boys could qualify for state for the first time in a couple years.

Last year, with stricter state-qualifying standards to limit athletes at the venue, no Sailor made it to the state meet. This year, they think they have a solid chance.

The talent is hard packed and in the middle of the field. At least, that’s what Lisa Renee suspects. The Sailors will see where they stand this weekend at West Grand.

“We have some fantastic middle of the pack strength,” said Lisa Renee. “Last year we had acuple front runners on each squad, then that middle of the pack that could have scored more points. It’ll be interesting to see what they’re strength will be.”

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