When Sam Weel--dreyer made his first trip to the Class 4A State Track and Field Championships as a sophomore, he was surprised by all the unexpected bodies flying by.
"We used to win every race in the season, so as the second leg at state, I wasn't used to standing and waiting (for the baton) while everyone else was running by," the senior 800-meter relay runner said of the faster championship fields.
What Weeldreyer learned was to not watch the other racers and to focus on his team by "just running our race."
Weeldreyer said his game plan -- to break the school record that's stood in the halls of Moffat County High School since 1982 -- for Friday's state championship 800-meter preliminary race was three years in the making since that first appearance.
Weeldreyer's plan worked. The relay team that included Josh Classen, Colton Conrad and anchor Andrew Drake broke the school record by 4/100 of a second.
Unfortunately, it was about a half second shy of the time needed to qualify for today's finals.
The boys 800 relay was not the only team that narrowly missed finals' qualification.
The girls 800 medley opened the day of action at Jefferson County Stadium with a time of 1 minute, 51.92 seconds -- more than a second faster than the team's best time, but 2/10 of a second and one spot short of qualification.
Medley anchor Alicia Nelson went all out, extending her body through the finish line and past a competitor for a fourth-place finish in the flight, but at the cost of a skidding tumble onto her knees and elbows.
No worse for the wear, Nelson bandaged the cuts and bruises and gutted out a spectacular finish in the individual 800-meter finals, earning the Bulldogs their top scoring finish on the day with a fifth-place time of 2 minutes, 18.9 seconds.
"I was a little tight, but I was just trying to find my speed like usual and kick the last lap," said Nelson, who progressively moved past opponents from 12th place after the first lap, bobbing and weaving through the final 50 meters, to fifth place.
Senior Jacob Miller proved himself among a truly elite field in the 3200 meters, earning seventh in 10:04.21.
"I know I could've run faster -- I was just pushing myself because no one was close to me, in front or behind, so I kinda died out by myself," Miller said. "But hey, I medaled and got some points for the team."
To Miller's credit, much of the separation in the field was due to an exceptional run from defending champion Kevin Williams from D'Evelyn, who had the entire stadium cheering for him as he shattered the state record by nine seconds, finishing two miles in 9:19.83.
Jeremy Bird also had his work cut out for him against a state record holder in the 800 meters. Bird finished in 1:58.57 for ninth place, less than a second off the school record. Michael McNicol was close on Bird's heels, finishing in 11th.
J.T. Hadden rounded out the Bulldogs' scoring efforts with an eighth-place, 143-foot, 9-inch toss in the discus finals.
"Throwing's a total head game and J.T. just has a cool head with whatever he does," Moffat throwing coach Lance Scranton said of the soft-spoken junior who stayed relaxed on a day when nerves go to much of the top-seeded senior competition.
Scranton was also impressed with sophomore Myiah Beng--ston, who took 16th in shot put in her first state appearance. Andrew Drake took 16th in the 200-meter dash preliminary heats, Erin Urbanoski finished 13th in the 100-meter dash prelims and Amber Suits finished 26th in the 3,200 finals.