Relayability

Distance relay teams in a league of their own, in more ways than one

As the Moffat County High School track teams circled to stretch this week, every set of legs had a hairless shine -- boys and girls alike. In fact, all 22 members of the MCHS track team, boy or girl who qualified for the state meet, will compete with shaved legs and the 3,200 boys relay team takes full credit.

"We were the pioneers of the shaved legs, dude," said junior Drew Lyon. "We did it at the third meet, now everybody else does it too."

Lyon joins juniors Anthony Loughran, Kelvin Grinolds and freshman Derek Duran to make up the boys 4x800 relay team heading to state at Jeffco Stadium in Denver Friday and Saturday.

The four can often be seen together at meets after they race, usually razzing teammates or even complete strangers. At the regional track meet in Grand Junction, Lyon and Duran spent their time while watching a teammate high jump trying to convince a group of girls they had completely different names.

"The boys are definitely goofballs," said middle distance coach Todd Trapp. "You never know what they'll do when they're together."

The Bulldogs are taking seven relay teams to the meet, but the runners and coaches agree, the 4x8s have their own unique identities.

"The guys, for the most part, are still learning to run the 800 and will have a chance to be state champions next year" Trapp said. "The girls haven't lost this year and are special because they are the next in a long line of great relay teams."

Members of the boys team all will return next season. The team also includes the only freshman in coach Gary Tague's 25 years to qualify for the state meet.

"I can't really take too much credit," Duran said. "Without the other three, I wouldn't be going."

The boys have yet to win a race this season, with either Montrose or Grand Junction Central foiling the chance for first place.

"We're going to beat Montrose when it counts," Grinolds said. "Not all of us had our best race at regionals and we were two seconds away."

They also believe they have a chance to put their names in the MCHS record books.

"We could get the school record at state," said Loughran, the only returning runner from the relay last year, which holds the record of 8:12. "If we run like we can, I think we'll run 8:10."

Trapp agreed with Loughran's prediction.

"Individually, they've shown in different races they're capable of getting down there," he said. "The only thing is that they haven't run at a big meet like state yet, so we'll see if it brings out their best."

The girls relay of seniors Laurel Mortensen, Danielle Brown, Kate Schafer and sophomore Angela Nelson, will most likely not be shooting for the school record. But a top-five finish isn't out of reach.

"Since we haven't seen the others' times in state, it is hard to say what they face," Trapp said. "But if Laurel gets the baton and they're in the top six, they have a good chance of being in the hunt."

Mortensen ran on a 4X800 relay team her freshman year that posted the fastest time for all classes in the history of Colorado at a state meet. While that time, 9:26.01 was later surpassed, it still stands in the MCHS record books and in the best in Class 4A history.

"Not to take away from Angela, but this team is the end of a run of great 4x8s," Trapp said. "These girls haven't had much competition this year so it will be interesting to see what they are capable of."

The girls aren't sure what they are capable of either.

"Obviously we each want to have personal bests in the race," Schafer said. "But other than that, we're not sure what we can do."

One thing that is for sure is the special bond the distance relays seem to have.

"It's hard to explain, but we're always together -- even in the hallways at school we hang out," Mortensen said.

"Part of it might be that we're always the last ones off the track and we're training together most of that time," Loughran said.

Whatever the ingredients are to make a relay team bond, both teams agree they've got it.

"These guys are all my homies," Lyon said.

Which elicited a response of, "Whatever, you guys are just weird," from the girls 4x800.

They never said the bond was between the teams.

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