All eyes on Salmen at State meet

G. Sean Kelly

Marco Salmen is going it alone at this year’s Class 4A State Track and Field Championship.

Well, sort of.

Salmen, a senior at Glenwood Springs High School, is one of the favorites to bring home a medal in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the state meet which begins today at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood.

For the first time at State, Salmen won’t have his brother, Chas, competing at the meet with him. Chas will, however, be on hand to help Marco warm up prior to his events.

“He’s rooting for me and he’s going to come and help me warm up,” Marco said. “It’s going to be different, but it’s good to know that he’s there and I’ve got his support.”

The brothers were a dominant presence on the Western Slope in both cross country and track while they were both at Glenwood High. They were “the Salmen brothers” and won a state championship running together as part of the team the 4×800 relay squad two years ago.

Last year, in what Marco calls the “symbolic passing of the torch,” the younger Salmen edged his older brother by 12-hundredths of a second for sixth place in the 3,200 at State. It wasn’t the ideal finish to the season, and it was a drop in terms of placing for Marco, who finished third in the event the year before.

Also, when Chas graduated and moved on to compete at Duke University, some people wondered whether Marco would be as successful this season, working without the motivation of having his brother as a partner for training and competing.

Salmen himself was one of those people.

“It’s a lot different, and I had the same uncertainty,” Salmen said. “The motivation is different. It’s kind of challenging … I was setting my own pace in the races.”

The pace Salmen set through the 2003 season was fast. He posted a personal best in the 1,600 at Palisade on April 12, and his time of 4 minutes, 23.95 seconds is currently ranked No. 1 in 4A by the Rocky Mountain News. He hasn’t set a personal best in the 3,200 this season, but his 9:50.11 mark is ranked second. And Demon head coach Blake Risner says Salmen is “due for a big one” in the event.

The times bode well for an individual title to go along with the relay crown.

“He should be ready, and it’s four years in the making,” Risner said. “Marco’s in nobody’s shadow and he’ll be the one everyone’s eyes will be on.”

While Salmen has been dominant on the Western Slope, he will likely have to change his race strategy somewhat for the competition at state.

He has shown a good kick this season, but it likely won’t be a strength for him against Colorado’s elite runners.

“This year (his kick) turned out to be one of his strengths. On the Western Slope he had enough speed to out-kick most anybody,” Risner said. “At State he knows that probably won’t be the case. He needs to get out and race for four laps.”

Salmen admits he would love to go out on top in his final prep meet, but he knows he can’t control what other runners do. So it’s as important to finish with a performance that meets his personal expectations.

“Obviously the goal is to go for a state title, but I also want to go out with a good race for my last high school race in Colorado,” he said.

Salmen opens with the 3,200 today at 5:05 p.m. His second shot comes Saturday with the 1,600 slated to start at 12:25 p.m.

“It’s up to him, and only him, to go out and win two state championships,” Risner said. “And I would be one of the happiest coaches in the state of Colorado because he deserves it.”

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