MCHS runners prepare for Regionals

Bulldogs' tracksters have high hopes of winning final regular-season meet

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Going for a third Regional title can have a calming effect on a guy.

Just ask Bulldog track coach Mike Gleason.

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Sophomore Ashley Bishop comes out of the block during a relay race at the last Bulldogs home meet. The track teams wrap up the season today and Saturday at regionals, at Grand Junction's Stocker Stadium.

"Really, I'm not worried," said Gleason, the mentor of fastest 4x800 team in the state . "Not to sound overconfident, but we'd have to mess up pretty bad not to win Regionals."

For the next two days, Western Slope Conference track coaches will be enjoying their most stressful days of the year at Grand Junction's, Stocker Stadium the Regional meet.

This will be the last chance for girls to qualify for the state meet, and Gleason feels that his team will be ready.

"We have outstanding experience on the team, so we're fairly relaxed going into big meets like regionals," he said. "The girls know that they're good, and in many cases, the athletes to beat in their event, so the only thing we have to worry about is staying healthy."

The 4x800 team, which set the state's best time of 9:43:34 at Mullen more than a month ago, has remained on top of the state rankings, continuing to improve ever since.

At the Rifle Invitational two weeks ago, the relay team once again raised the stakes, running a time of 9:35.16.

Emily and Laurel Mortensen have proved to be a potent sedatives for any anxieties their head coach might have felt. Laurel has established herself as distinct threat in the 400-meter run, while Emily will be battling her high school nemesis in the 800 meters.

Emily is ranked in the top-ten of Colorado's 800-meters runners, regardless of class size, but will have to contend with Palisade's Natalie Hughes.

Hughes and Mortensen have been going head-to-head their entire careers, with Hughes edging out Mortensen every year.

Anxiety created by Regionals may be somewhat greater on boys track coach Gary Tague, but an optimistic view of the future has mended frayed nerves.

The recently whelped 'Dogs have fought through inexperience all season, with only one senior to lead the way.

That senior, Jarrod Burns, is where the boys' state hopes rest. He currently sits in the middle of the Class 4A pack in the 3,200 meter.

Along with Burns, the 'Dogs are hoping to qualify a few relay teams for the state meet. They believe the best, though, is yet to come.

"We're just such a young team, but we have a lot of talent in the younger kids," Coach Tague said. "The boys have been fighting youth all year, but it will make them better in the years to come."

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