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March 23, 2010 3:48 am

PHS looks to defend title

Written by Tribune Staff

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PHS tracksters (from left) Brooke Nisley, Claire Wetzel and Desiree Murray, jog on the infield during an early-season track warmup. The Panther girls, who return en masse from 2009, and the defending 3A champion boys, begin competition Saturday in Cody. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik

Wealth of experience returns for Panther girls

When we last saw the Powell High School track team, the Panther boys were engaged in a frenzied infield celebration after a last-leg victory over rival Cody in the 4x400 relay delivered the state championship trophy to Powell.

Fast forward one year. Patrick Sullivan, whose fleet feet delivered that memorable moment, has graduated. So, too, have other key members of the Panthers' 2009 title team.

Nevertheless, Powell appears to be right back in the thick of a possible title hunt in 2010.

“If I had to guess right now, I think it's still Douglas, Cody and us,” Powell track coach Scott Smith said. “The neat thing about this year is that everyone graduated a lot of kids last year, so everyone is going to need some new kids to step forward and fill in with some points.”

If there's one area the Panthers are certainly not lacking in this season, it is the number of options the school has for candidates to “step forward.” Powell has 40-45 boys out for track this spring. Roughly 30 girls reported for the first week of track practice.

Kyle Sullivan captured a state title last season in the high jump and already looks in form following a state indoor title in the same event just weeks ago. Sullivan was also a key member of the Panthers' hurdle roster and ran both a leg on the winning 4x400 relay and the open 400, where he placed eighth last season.

Drew Magill is another multi-event place winner from 2009 that is expected to play a key role this season. Magill finished in the top five in the 200, triple jump and long jump, including a 3A runner-up finish in the latter. Like Sullivan, Magill took advantage of the indoor track season, tallying a runner-up finish in the triple jump.

“The indoor season for those guys, as well as Colby Gilmore, was really good,” said Smith. “All those indoor meets are against 4A competition, and then when you throw in the Simplot Games over in Idaho, you're talking about national-caliber competition. That's only going to help them as they move outdoors.”

Other key returnees from the ‘09 championship squad include Matthew Condie (fourth in the pole vault), Josh Cragoe (fourth in 110m and 300m hurdles) and Andrew Young (third in the discus).

“Andrew has looked good early in the discus and Condie doesn't look like he's missed a beat,” Smith said.

Several new faces will likely filter up through the Panthers' lineup throughout the season as well. Jacob Buester was a key member of Powell's throws unit last season, but missed on a chance to go to state due to a Wyoming rule limiting teams to three entries per event in the state field.

That rule has been changed for the 2010 season, enabling schools to send four to state in each event now.

“We could have used that rule last season,” Smith said. “We could have sent four in the shot and discus and probably one or two of the hurdles races.”

Another individual Smith likes as a potential contributor in 2010 is Cody Fagley.

“He had a very good cross country season going until he got sick late in the year,” Smith said. “When you look at the good things he did at Basin, it isn't hard to see him helping us in the middle distance races.”

On the girls' side, the Panthers did not graduate a senior from last year's team. Even so, the squad will still be dominated by young, but experienced, competitors.

“The landscape on the girls' side is very different from the boys,” Smith said. “Cody returns a lot and they dominated everyone last season. Mountain View, last year's 2A state champion, comes into 3A this year. Lander shifting into the West region will cause us to have to fight it out.”

Desiree Murray turned in a pair of top-six finishes at state last season in the 800 and 300-meter hurdles. Kendra Ostrum and Hannah Pollart split third-place honors in the high jump. Stephanie Paul will help in the sprints, including the 200 where she was a sixth-place finisher last season. Marquette McArthur was a fourth-place finisher in the discus and Alyssa Rodriguez and Claire Wetzel also saw action in the 2009 state championshps.

“We've got some freshmen, especially on the girls' side, that I think will step in and help,” said Smith. “By the end of the season, I think you'll see a few of them contributing points consistently.”

The Panthers begin the 2010 track season on Saturday at the Cody Invitational.