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September 09, 2008 1:01 am

Cross country teams start strong

Written by Tribune Staff

PHS girls seventh, boys 12th at Billings Invite

Another cross country season started on a strong note for the Powell High School boys and girls squads, who traveled to Montana for the Billings Invitational Friday afternoon.

“It was a great day for a meet,” said PHS head coach Cliff Boos. “It was 68 degrees and partly cloudy. Last year, the temperature was near 100. It was a lot better for the kids this year, and they turned in some really good times.”

The Lady Panthers, bolstered by a solid mix of youth and experience, tallied a seventh-place effort in the event, which featured 24 teams. The Bozeman High School Lady Bulldogs took the team title at the invitational and were paced by Heidi Turner, who finished first overall with an effort of 17:55 in the three-mile event. Teams finishing between Bozeman and the Lady Panthers were Billings West, Billings Senior, Hardin (Mont.), Butte (Mont.) and Worland high schools.

The Lady Panthers' top runner was senior Lauren Dunleavy, who finished 38th overall with time of 21:05. Her time was a one-minute and three-second improvement over her effort in the same invitational last season.
Lady Panthers finishing behind Dunleavy included freshman Alyssa Rodriguez (50th, 21:25), senior Jordan Bigelow (52nd, 21:30), junior Emily Schwahn (65th, 22:02), junior Kristi Mingus (83rd, 22:44), sophomore Kassey MacDonald (88th, 22:55) and junior Megan Darrow (90th, 22:58). Overall, 119 competitors took part in the varsity girls' portion of the invite.

On the boys' side, the Panthers notched a 12th-place finish. The Bulldogs, like in the girls' portion of the event, finished as the top team and helped Butte to a sweep of both the varsity and junior varsity divisions.

The Panther boys, like the Lady Panthers, faced a 24-team field. Overall, 105 runners competed.

Leading the way for the Panthers was senior Patrick Sullivan, who recorded a time of 18:38 and a 61st-place finish. His time was almost a three-minute improvement compared to his time in the 2007 Billings Invitational.

The remainder of Powell's top-seven runners included sophomore Patrick Voss (62nd, 18:38), sophomore Danny McKearney (65th, 18:40), senior Alex Speiser (83rd, 19:28), senior Jake Firnekas (87th, 19:49), sophomore Tyler McCauley (92nd, 20:08) and junior Devin Lynn (98th, 20:24).

“It was a great start to the season for both teams,” Boos said. “Of the kids that ran in this event last year, most of them improved their times. We also got some strong efforts from our first-year runners.”

• Up next: PHS's boys and girls cross country squads are scheduled to compete again Friday, Sept. 12 at the annual Cody Invitational at Don Little Park. The event is slated to begin at 4 p.m. with the middle school event. The junior varsity and varsity events will follow.