Records were made to be broken
EAGLE-VAIL – These guys wouldn’t know a record if it hit them in the face.”Do I own a record? Like a musical record? I don’t,” Battle Mountain track and field’s Shea Phelan said. “I play my parents’ records a lot, usually around Christmas.””We probably had a couple tapes when we were little,” sophomore Jonny Stevens said.The Huskies may not know their vinyl, but they’ve gone platinum in 2006. The tracksters have busted four school records this year, heading into the 4A state meet today and Saturday at Jefferson County Public Stadium in Lakewood.The boys’ 3,200-meter relay mark went down for the second time in two years. The boys’ 800 team toppled a time which had stood since 1986. And Jonny Stevens knocked off Chris Isbell’s 1,600 and 3,200 bests, set in the early 1990s. “We’d been building toward (1,600 and 3,200) records for a while,” Huskies coach Rob Parish said. “We thought that Grant (Stevenson) and Zach (Erickson) would get them last year and they were just a little bit off. It was great that Jonny got it, but not unexpected. The 4-by-8 record was a record we thought would never be touched, and this 4-by-2 team has just come together and jelled so well.”Go, Jonny, goThe first thing that strikes anyone who’s followed Stevens is the statement – he’s only a sophomore. Better known for his hockey before he entered Battle Mountain – and he remains an excellent defenseman for the school’s hockey team – Stevens has blossomed in running.He’s been a major part of the boys’ cross country team’s emergence. In what was meant to a be a rebuilding year after the harriers lost Stevenson and Erickson to graduation last May, Stevens ended up leading the Huskies’ boys to a school-best 10th-place finish at last fall’s 4A state meet. Stevens made all-state by finishing ninth down in Colorado Springs.
Already on the record board at The Dog House tied with Stevenson for Battle Mountain’s best boys’ cross-country mark, Stevenson took out Isbell’s two-mile and mile marks in the course of eight days at the Tiger Invitational and regionals earlier this month.Stevens obviously is innately talented. But that only can take an athlete so far.”Jonny is extremely coachable,” Parish said. “He listens. He believes in the plan. He races intelligently and he’s going to have a phenomenal career. If he continues at this current rate, he’s going to be sought after by every Division I college in the country.”Stevens speaks quietly about his accomplishments. He knows that his success has come from building up the miles in practice. He credits working with Stevenson and Erickson last year.With his records in hand, he enters the state meet with more experience than the average sophomore.”(The state) cross (-country meet in 2004) was a big deal because the senior guys hadn’t gone either, so that was kind of a first for us and we were all kind of like, ‘This is the big time,'” Stevens said. “This year when our team went back, we knew what to expect. Last year, I went down and watched the 4-by-8 guys and I kind of know how things are going to go.”‘Hopeful’The boys’ 3,200 team is back at state for the second straight year and back again as regional champions. But it’s been a different road with different faces.Stevenson, Erickson, Phelan and Travis Landauer obliterated the school record by 22 seconds last year. Without the first two, Parish didn’t expect the mark to fall again.Then Landauer and Phelan, whom Parish calls “the center of the team,” went down with injuries, and the coach was juggling the lineup.
One new runner wasn’t so new – Derek Byron, the alternate on last year’s team. Byron was a perfect fit. Then, Connor Drumm traded his basketball sneakers for track cleats.”I was hopeful,” Phelan said. “We knew we had three strong guys. I knew what we were capable of. It wasn’t until Connor started practicing I kind of got a hint that we were going to do something special.””Zach and Grant set the tone, and set the bar of expectations high,” Parish said. “That continued into this year. Then you add Derek, who was the alternate last year, and saw the race all year and was thinking about the race all year. You add Connor Drumm to the mix, and it makes any team legitimate. Now, you have four solid runners.”It all came together at regionals last week. With Phelan back at the end of April and Landauer finally healthy, the crew lowered the mark to 8 minutes and 4.44 seconds.”Hearing 8:04 was a definite surprise, but it was almost better that we beat Moffat to be regional champs,” Phelan said. “Just being regional champs two years in a row is almost greater than the school record.”Sprinters?Battle Mountain has a storied history in the shorter distances, but not recently. Jeff Campbell holds the 100 mark, but his seemingly untouchable 10.25 was set in 1986.Last week, Aaron Wilcox became the first Battle Mountain athlete to qualify individually for a sprint – the 100 – at state since Stephanie Feldhaus did it in 2000.So getting four guys together to form a record-breaking 800 team was likely the surprise of the track season.”No. 1 we have good balance on our team. We have over 100 athletes, so we’re able to diversify,” Parish said. “I give a lot of credit to coach (Jeff) Krum(laf). He’s just done a fantastic job with the sprinters. And we have some great athletes.”
Wilcox is definitely one. Casey Kleisinger is one of the state’s premiere hockey players. Toss in Ascher Robbins and Ryan Hedrick, who like Wilcox are football players, and you have an 800 team.”We’ve just all been working on getting the perfect form,” Robbins said. “At first, we didn’t have that good handoffs, and we’ve been nailing them recently. Instead of using tape, we’ve been judging it by looking at the other person’s face when they’re coming in. You have to have a lot of chemistry.”More marks on the way?Battle Mountain track and field might not be done yet this year. Drumm is not far from breaking Kyle Ferguson’s record in the 800 (1:57.30). Crystin Rodrick is 5 seconds away from Arwyn Becker’s 5:21 in the 1,600. And Leslie Peterson has a shot at Feldhaus in the 400.Then there are also those who have already gone up on the board this year.”I’m thinking we can go sub-8,” Phelan said. “We’d all have to run our best to do that. It will be fun to see if we can.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado