More than a handful

With 11 returning state qualifiers, team should be a force

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The magnificent 11. The cheap baker's dozen. The electric 11.

So there aren't really any catchy nicknames for a group of 11.

Moffat County High School boys track coach Gary Tague hasn't come up with a crafty name for his 11 returning state qualifiers either, but it could have something to do with talent and expectations.

"This should be one of the best teams I've had," said the coach in his 26th year. "It's been a long time since we've had so many returning state qualifiers."

The Bulldogs didn't graduate any state qualifiers from last year's track team. Returning for the season are qualifiers from three relay teams, both hurdle races, all three jump events, and the 400-and 800-meter runs.

Seniors Cody Palmer, Brad Hurd and Kelvin Grinolds qualified in three events last year. Palmer went in the long jump, triple jump and 400 relay. Hurd competed in the high jump, long jump and 1,600 relay. Grinolds was a state qualifier in the 400, 1,600 relay and 3,200 relay.

Palmer placed fourth in both the triple and long jump last year at the state meet. He has the school record in both events and is planning for some long leaps this year.

"I want to break the state record in the long jump," he said. "I did it last year but just barely scratched."

Palmer's flying ability is also accompanied by speedy landing gear. Palmer anchors the 400 relay team that finished seventh in the state last year.

"I think a top-three finish is a good goal for us this year," senior Shea Carr said. "We shouldn't have gotten slower,"

Junior Daniel Tague and senior Trey Gorham are the other speedsters on the relay.

Another relay with fast aspirations this year is the 3,200 relay team. Grinolds, Anthony Loughran, Drew Lyon and Derek Duran went into state wanting to break the school record and finish in the top eight in '03. Neither goal happened but the team is all back.

"It's like we have unfinished business," Lyon said. "Last year all of us but Anthony were still learning to run the race."

Another athlete to miss what he hoped for at state last year was Hurd. His ninth-place finish in the high jump wasn't good enough. The jumper who tied the school record twice in the high jump at 6 feet, 4 inches, hopes to clear 6'7" this year.

"That height won state last year so that's where I want to be," he said.

Hurdlers Daniel Tague, a junior, and senior Aaron Sanchez had their first experiences at state last year. They're back with that barrier out of the way and hoping they can get over barriers on the track a bit quicker.

The Bulldogs boys are the only state-ranked team from Moffat County to start the spring. The Rocky Mountain News has them ranked sixth. The Blue and White knows the first way to prove its ranking is to beat Montrose at a meet.

"Montrose always has a lot of guys out and their depth makes them the best team on the Western Slope," Tague said. "Rifle should have a pretty good team as well."

The Bulldogs also bring some depth. They have more than 50 athletes out for the team.

The events that the Bulldogs didn't score a lot of points in last year were the throws and long distance. Tague said he thought both areas would be better, but wasn't sure who would be the athletes scoring in that area.

The first varsity meet for the Bulldogs will be at Hotchkiss March, 27.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

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