At this time last year, Moffat County High School senior Bryce Ellgen was struggling to break the 11-minute mark in the 3,200-meter run.
Then at the Clint Wells Invitational in Craig, Ellgen had a breakthrough, finishing second in a time of 10:48.
It was a fitting performance considering the track meet had been renamed that year in honor of Wells, a former Bulldog runner who held the state meet record in the 3,200 for nine years.
"It was a good confidence builder for me," Ellgen said. "It was nice to have the hometown crowd cheering for me at the meet before regionals."
Ellgen said he hopes he can have a breakthrough again this year at the 2nd Annual Clint Wells Invitation Saturday. He has a harder task ahead for the breakthrough as he recovers from a strained oblique muscle.
Injury recovery seems to be a theme for the Bulldogs going into their home meet.
"We've been a little beat up to the point that on the girls side we are just getting our relay teams to full strength," said coach Vicki Haddan. "The good news is that we're past the major stuff with injuries."
Getting the team to full strength is the focus of the coaching staff as the regional meet approaches next week. While he would like to see more pre-qualifications for the state meet happen this weekend, coach Gary Tague said he is looking more for his athletes to fine tune for the regional.
"We don't always see big personal records because of the weather," Tague said. "It is easier for our kids because we don't have to travel and it is a more relaxed atmosphere at home."
There will be seven teams and more than 400 athletes at the meet, which starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the MCHS track.
Out-of-town athletes to watch that the coaches mentioned would be the boys state champion from Wyoming in the 110 hurdles as well as a good long jumper from Green River, Wyo.
Local attractions will be junior Brandi Babin as she tries to improve on her times in the 100 and 200, Jeni Jones in the jumps and sprints for MCHS, the boys and girls 4x800 relay teams, Cody Palmer, a state placer in the long and triple jump last year, and 800 runner Laurel Mortensen, who has one of the best times in that race in the state.
To add to the meet this year and years to come, Moffat County purchased a Finish Lynx timing system that automatically records the times of the finishes on a computer program. It will be the first time the system has run in Craig, but it already was used at a track meet in Rifle, which co-owns the equipment.
"Our coaches seem to have it in order," Tague said. "If we have a problem, the Rifle coaches will be here to help and we can always