The traditionalists

Moffat County girls 3,200-relay the next in a long line of success

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Thirteen athletes from the Moffat County track teams left Thursday for the Class 4A track meet at Legacy Stadium in Denver. On Friday, freshman Markie Workman will lead off for the Bulldogs in the high jump. Coach Vicki Haddan said Workman is seeded in the middle of the pack, with her season best of 5 feet at the regional meet. "I would like to jump five-two" she said. "That might earn a top-eight finish." Senior Brittani Weber and the boys 800-meter relay team of seniors Daniel Tague and Rowan DuBois, and sophomores Andrew Drake and Sam Weeldreyer will compete at about 12:30 p.m. Weber finished seventh last year in the shot put and hopes to improve on her previous placing. Coach Gary Tague said he thought the 800 relay team had a chance to break into the top three of all time for MCHS with a good preliminary race. "Their best time is a 1:32.9," coach Tague said. "They need to run in the low 32s or high 31 to break into the top three, and they might sneak into the finals with that time." Freshman Angie Charchalis and senior Angela Nelson are scheduled to race at 3:35 p.m. in the 800. This is Nelson's second time to run the event at state. At 4:45 p.m., seniors Emily Sperl and Amelia Parker will take off in the 3,200. The race is scheduled for two heats, with Sperl, seeded ninth, making it into the first seed. Both runners hope to break 11 minutes after running in the low 11s at the regional. Sophomore Jake Miller will follow the girls in the 3,200. His goal is to break 10 minutes and crack into the top eight. Immediately after the 3,200, the girls 1,600-relay team of junior Anna Herring, freshman Jorgiea Raftopoulos, Nelson and Charchalis will try to race its way into the finals. Raftopoulos and Herring will be racing fresh in the event for the first time this year. "Usually the girls are pretty tired for the four-by-four," coach Vicki Haddan said. "With a couple of fresh legs, they should improve." To kick off Saturday, the girls 3,200-relay team of Charchalis, Nelson, Raftopoulos and Sperl enter the meet with the seventh-best time. It is the only event the Bulldogs are going into ranked to place. The finals for the boys 800-relay are at 11:55 a.m. Saturday. Sperl will finish her busy weekend with the 1,600 at 12:15. p.m. This is her second year to qualify. The finals for the girls 1,600 relay will finish up the day for the girls at 3:35 p.m.

At the first track meet of the 2005 season, freshman Angie Charchalis was a bit nervous. She had never run an 800-meter race.

"I had no idea what to do," she said.

That's when Angela Nelson and Emily Sperl's senior experience kicked in.

"We told her we'd be on the side of the track helping her out," Sperl said. "Then she ran a 2:30 or something, and I knew she'd be good."

Charchalis went on to learn a thing or two about running and winning the 800. She won the Class 4A Western Region championships last weekend in Grand Junction. Nelson finished third.

With the win, the freshman put herself in line to be the next dominant 800 runner to wear a Bulldog track uniform.

"We've always had great middle distance coaches," said Gary Tague, Moffat County track coach of 26 years. "We also that have strong cross-country program that helps produce the runners."

Four Bulldog girls have won the 800 at the regional the past four years. With her win last Saturday, Charchalis joined Nelson, Laurel Mortensen and Charlotte Steele as consecutive regional champs. Before Steele's championship, Emily Mortensen finished second in the 800 for three straight years behind Palisade's Natalie Hughes, who was the state champion in the 400, 800 and 1,600 those three years.

"The coaches are always looking for girls to run the 800," Nelson said. "It takes a lot of hard work in the race, and they know what to look for to run the event."

The 800 also is an event in which the Bulldogs have had depth. The 3,200 relay (or 4x800) was initiated in Colorado high school track and field in 1992. Since then, the Bulldog girls have had top-eight finishes at state all but one year.

During those 14 years, the Bulldogs have had four state-championship relays. They've won the regional title in the 3,200 12 of 14 years. The relay team of Steel, Laurel Mortensen and Emily Mortensen and Stephanie Hurd won state titles for two consecutive years in 2000 and 2001. Their time of 9:26.01 at the state meet in 2000 is still the fastest in Class 4A state-meet history.

"Girls know that if they make that relay they're going to go to state," girls coach Vicki Haddan said. "And they're probably going to do well.

Haddan, just like Tague, credited the middle distance coaches of the past and present for creating a successful tradition.

"Coach (Mike) Gleason, coach (Todd) Trapp and coach (Dustin) Ence know what it takes," she said. "They have built a reputation for us in that area, and it's expected for us to do well in that area."

This year's team includes Charchalis and Jorgiea Raftopoulos, who had never raced an 800 before. They've been cultivated into middle distance runners.

"The farthest I had raced before was a 200," Raftopoulos said. "It was a learning process."

Charchalis had never raced farther than a 400 in middle school.

"You learn every race," she said. "The older girls help a lot."

Nelson and Sperl were on last year's eighth-place team at state.

Nelson has been on the 3,200-relay all four years of her high school career. She said she couldn't remember a Bulldog four-by-eight team losing a race except for state.

"When we've had our best girls running, I don't remember losing," she said. "We've always been the best around here."

Sperl went out for high school track for the first time last year. She learned quickly what it took to be a middle distance runner.

"The workouts are tough," she said. "The coaches know how to look for who will be tough."

This year's team was undefeated in races, and with seven girls running on the relay, it was competitive just to make the team.

The final team was decided when Raftopoulos joined it for the Tiger Invitational in Grand Junction the week before the regional.

The closest competition for the team, which won most of the meets by 20 to 30 seconds, was at the regional meet. They won that race by nine seconds.

The four enter the state meet seeded seventh. Their fastest time of 10:03 is 10 seconds slower than the fastest entered time of 9:53.

"We want to break 10 and be in the top five," Sperl said. Everyone should post a personal best time, she added.

Nelson hopes to add to her finishes of eighth, eighth and fifth in the event at state.

"We haven't had any competition, so I think we can run well up front," she said.

The seniors commented that they were glad to see two freshmen will carry on the tradition next year.

"It's good to see two strong freshmen who know what they're doing for next year," Sperl said.

The seniors had advice for the state-meet rookies.

"You have to stay with the pack no matter how fast it feels," Nelson said. "Never get boxed in and don't end up by yourself."

Sounds like advice from a seasoned veteran.

"I've learned from some of the best," Nelson said.

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

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