Cross country runner overcomes adversity to excel

Editor's note: This is an installment in a series highlighting the accomplishments of those Moffat County High School athletes named All-Conference and All-Conference honorable mention during the 2000-2001 athletic seasons.

Charlotte Steele's career as a cross country runner has been plagued by difficulties. As a freshman, it was stifled by asthma, and she sprained both her ankles during her sophomore year.

In the fall of 2000, Steele's junior year, everything came together for her and her team. She remained injury free, ran on the state championship team, and place 17th at the state competition, a finish good enough to earn her All-State honorable mention and help her team to a state championship.

"I was skeptical about the season because I had had so much trouble the past two years. I was just waiting to see what came up next injury-wise," Steele said.

Steele made it to state as a sophomore, but her ankle injury held her to a 120th place finish.

Steele started running in seventh grade, egged on by fellow teammate and All-State honorable mention runner Beth White. By the time Steele got to high school, some of the glory of running had worn off for her, and she questioned whether or not running was the path she wanted to take.

"My freshman year I kind of wanted to get out of running because I couldn't make the runs. I'd run an 800 and wouldn't be able to keep up with anyone," she said. "But I kept up with the training with support from my friends, and fell in love with running. Now it's something I have to do."

Steele admits she had ulterior motives to starting a career in cross country preparing for the 800-meter run in track. But after competing for a few years, she found that cross country was a sport that she excelled at.

"Before this year, Steele said she didn't care for cross country. I asked her after we won the state title how she felt about it, then she said 'I like it a lot better now,'" Moffat County High School cross country Coach Mike Gleason said.

Winning has been a key motivator for Steele, and being on Moffat County's team has pushed her to achieve more in her running career. She feels that much of her success comes from practicing with a team of such a high caliber, and that she wouldn't have been able to achieve what she has with out the drive of her teammates.

"On our team, there's a lot of competition. All the girls want to beat each other. You need to have that in cross country if you're going to have a state-capable team," Coach Gleason said.

MCHS runner Sheila McNicol was the driving force for Steele in the state cross country meet last fall at Kent Denver. Sheila got hurt before the race, and that weighed heavily on Steele's mind. Without McNicol running well, it was a question of whether Moffat County would take state.

"I was halfway through the race and her [McNicol's] Dad was cheering for me. Then all of the sudden I heard him start cheering for Sheila. I knew she was right behind me and none of us were going to slow down. I knew at that point we were going to win state," Steele said.

The All-Conference and All-State honorable mention veneration for Steele, even in a sport as individual as running, has not overshadowed the accomplishments that she achieved with her team.

"It means a lot to get honors like those in something like cross country because really it's only you out there at that moment, but the state championship means much more to me because I know I would never done as well without my team," Steele said.

Steele will compete in track this spring and will return for one more year of all the sports she competes in, cross country, basketball and track. She hopes to earn a scholarship in one of her many running events, though she is not sure which one she wants the most right now.

"I hope to get a scholarship. If I don't, I'll walk on somewhere. If no team will have me, I'll keep running on my own," Steele said.

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