Devils start season today at Hotchkiss | VailDaily.com
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Devils start season today at Hotchkiss

Daily file photoEagle Valley's Sean Matheson leads the final leg of the boys 400 meter relay at the 3A state track meet last year in Pueblo. Matheson and the Devils have moved up to 4A this season.
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GYPSUM – The Eagle Valley boys track team is stronger, faster and deeper than it was in 2004 when it won the 3A state title.That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Devils, who would be heavily favored to repeat this year in 3A, are now in 4A.”We’ve been competing against 4A for years, though,” said Eagle Valley coach Jeff Schroll, unfazed by the possibility of a competitive drop-off this season. “In our region, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. We’ve competed against (these teams) all along, but this year it’s certainly far tougher than I’ve ever seen it. I still think we’ll be OK.”The Devils open their season today at the Hotchkiss Invitational. Last weekend, the team traveled to Montrose for a scrimmage meet. The Indians, who were the best 4A team in the region last season, beat the Devils by 30 points.Schroll said the loss was a good measuring stick for his team as it prepared this week for its first official meet.

“I was missing two of my top runners in Wes Minett and Alex Gamble,” Schroll said. “Had those two been there, would we have closed that gap? Absolutely. We’ll be all right, and we won’t see (Montrose) again until a week before regionals. We also know Rifle’s really tough. Glenwood Springs is really tough. Moffat County is really tough. We’re going to see them every week from here on out.”Heading up the roster of returnees this year for the Devils are senior Brad Gamble and junior Sean Matheson.Gamble won individual state titles last year in long jump and both 110 and 300 meter hurdles. Matheson won individual gold in the 100 and 200. The two also won gold together on the 800-meter relay team. Matheson won his fourth gold medal as the anchor leg on the 400 relay team with Gamble’s twin brother, Alex. Minett was on both state championship relay teams.Russell Allen is the lone piece of the gold-medal relay teams not to return, having graduated last spring.”I think all the individuals sure have a chance to repeat. It’s just a different world moving to 4A,” Schroll said. “Can they do it? Yes, absolutely. I don’t know if we set goals like that yet. I think we’re just working on warm weather first of all so we can train hard. We’re going to be competitive again.”

While the boys team won’t sneak up on anybody in its new classification, Schroll said the girls team is going to be the sleeper surprise of the 4A Western Slope.”I’ve got a super talented group of freshmen in addition to our solid seniors like Heather Mann, Kenzie Shreeve and Jessica Medsker,” Schroll said. “My girls team is my big shocker this year.” Shreeve, Medsker, and senior Jessica Stiles make up three of the four legs left over from last season’s 800 relay team, which set the school record. Schroll has been experimenting with a number of runners to fill out the team, including Mann, and will see what works best as the season progresses.Mann will again be the Devils’ best threat in the open 400, while Shreeve will compete for team points in high jump and the 800.Medsker will run the 3200.Schroll is really excited about a dynamic group of freshmen who he expects to make an immediate impact on the team.

Ashley Rohweder will triple jump and run the 300-meter hurdles. Speedster Jessie Rice will run the 100 and 200. Becca Stough will run hurdles and triple jump.After a banner year for the track program last year, the coach feels there is a strong, unspoken sense of confidence among the members of both teams. “The commitment this year is great,” he said. “I’ve got my full team practicing for the first time ever going to this Hotchkiss meet, which is on spring break. I think the kids are excited. The good thing about the success we had last year is that it breeds team success.”Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at npeterson@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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