STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Hayden High School track team returns a plethora of state-contending talent to this year’s squad.
Its first test will be at the Rifle Invite on Friday, where all of the Routt County teams will be competing.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been locked being inside for the most part,” Hayden head coach Mike Crum said. “Our distance runners have been able to get outside. We’ve had a bit of a tough time due to snow, but we’ve been taking what we’ve been able to get.”
Hayden senior Chris Carrouth is among one of the key members of the mid- to long-distance group. Carrouth was a state qualifier in cross-country this past fall for Moffat County, but is also a two-year state veteran on the track team.
As a qualifier in the 800, 1,600 and the 3,200-meter last year, Carrouth hopes that he can qualify in five events this year, which includes the 4-x-400 meter relay and 4-x-800 meter relay and substitutes the 3,200 for the 400 meters.
“I need the mental toughness, our coach will get me there in the endurance part,” Carrouth said. “I need the tough and the hardest parts of the race and be able to dig deeper and continue to push.”
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Carrouth joins a distance crew that includes sophomore Wyatt Mortenson, who placed ninth overall at the state cross-country meet this year.
Senior Makenna Knez highlights the girls contingent as a four-time state cross-county qualifier for Moffat County and a state qualifier in last year’s 1,600-meter for the track team. She’s also recently committed to Western Colorado for both.
But on the sprints’ side, there will be more youth.
“We’ve got some good talent to augment our team at freshman and sophomore level,” Crum said. “Two-thirds of our group will be freshmen and sophomores.”
Sophomore Kimberly Verastica highlights the field events as a young state qualifier last year in discus.
While she hopes to improve her shot put skills, she is more focused on placing higher in the discus, where she took 12th last year.
“I feel more confidence throwing discus,” Verastica said. “I want to make it to state and make it on the podium. Last year it was kind of rough because it was raining, and I scratched first two. Last one I threw 98 feet.”
Verastica believes it’s going to take more experience and discipline to advance her skills in both throws. Freshman Piper Jo will join her as the second female thrower on the team.
Crum believes that while the team faces challenges in preseason training, the track record of success will continue. He hopes with a team of 46 athletes he can fill all the events without leaving any points on the table.
“We hope to get as many athletes as we can to the state track meet,” Crum said. “Our long-term goal is to give some of these student athletes an opportunity for an education based on track. We want to put our athletes out there to compete on a level they can get some scholarships.”