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October 23, 2008 3:01 am

Cross country season ends Saturday

Written by Tribune Staff

PHS squads set sights on state meet

Powell High School's cross country teams will attempt to end the 2008 season on a solid note when they compete in the state meet Saturday at the Sheridan V.A. Hospital grounds.

The Lady Panthers enter the state event after winning the Class 3A West title last Friday in Worland. During that meet, the Lady Panthers placed five runners in the top nine spots in what proved to be a dominant performance.

They finished ahead of runner-up Jackson, the defending conference champs and winners of the 3A state title in 2007.

Leading the Lady Panthers' charge at the conference meet were freshmen runners Desiree Murray and Alyssa Rodriguez, who finished second and fourth overall. They will lead a Saturday lineup that includes Lauren Dunleavy, Skye Albert, Jordan Bigelow, Emily Schwahn and McKenzie Danforth. The alternate runner will be Kassey MacDonald.

Murray and Rodriguez, though in just their first year of varsity competition, have consistently been among PHS's top runners this season. Both, according to Murray, are looking to continue their success this weekend and help the team to its second state championship in three years. The Lady Panthers last won the state title in 2006.

“It should be a lot of fun this weekend,” Murray said. “It's been on my mind a lot this week, and I'm looking forward to it. Winning the state title is our primary goal, but we know there will be a lot of good teams there. The competition is going to be pretty tough, but if we can run together in a tight pack and finish strong like we did at the conference meet, we've got a good chance to win it.”

Murray also said the help of the veteran runners, particularly those who have competed in previous state meets, should help her and Rodriguez deal with added pressure that comes with a state meet. Those veteran runners, Murray said, have have helped her and her fellow freshman teammate all season long.

“They've all been very supportive,” Murray said. “Because of all the support and teamwork, we've all been able to accomplish a lot.”

On the boys side, senior Patrick Sullivan is expected to be the leader of a lineup that will include Patrick Voss, Danny McKearney, Tyler McCauley, Colton Smith, Alex Speiser and Devin Lynn. The alternate runner will be Jake Firnekas.

Sullivan, who has made major improvements in his times when compared to last year, earned a spot on the 3A West All-Conference squad with a ninth-place finish in Worland last Friday, and he believes the Panthers have a good shot at making the top three Saturday.

“If we run well like we did at the conference meet, we might be able to make the top three,” said Sullivan, who will be competing in his second state meet. “We know Jackson and Worland are going to be good, and Lander from the East has a good team this year. There will be a lot of good teams there, but we believe we've got a shot at placing.”

Devin Lynn, a junior who will be making his first appearance at a state cross country meet, shared the same outlook as Sullivan. Lynn was among a group of five runners who finished in spots 27 through 31 last week at the conference meet.

“I'm very excited about it,” Lynn said about qualifying for the state event. “We've got the potential to do pretty well.

The key for us will be to get as many runners in the top 10 as we possibly can.”

Both the Panthers and Lady Panthers have been training this week with a routine that closely mirrors what they've used all season. According to PHS head coach Cliff Boos, maintaining the status quo has proven to be the best way to approach the state meet.

“You just have to keep doing what you've been doing,” Boos said. “You don't want to make any major changes this close to it.”

Though only the state qualifiers and alternates are required to train during the week leading up to the season-ending meet, Boos said the practices have been filled with Panthers and Lady Panthers who finished their individual running seasons last week in Worland. That, he said, is a credit to the determination of PHS's runners. Boos also said that has helped the teams maintain a routine like they've used all season.

Wyatt Horner, the lone freshman for the Panther boys, said he's continued practicing in an effort to get better and support those who will have one last chance to run Saturday. According to Sullivan, that type of dedication doesn't go unnoticed.

“That kind of support means a lot,” Sullivan said. “I think it shows a lot of character and love for the sport.”

Sullivan also said the encouragement and time offered by the coaching staff, which includes assistant coach Ashley Hildebrand, has helped put both teams in a position to do well this weekend.

“Our coaches have been great,” Sullivan said. “They always take the time to work with everybody on the team, and they know what the needs are for each runner. They're really supportive, and they do a great job with the workouts and helping every person do the best they can.”

For the Lady Panthers, they will get their 3A title shot in the 10:30 a.m. race Saturday. The Panther boys will get their chance against the rest of Class 3A in the 12:15 p.m. race.