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October 02, 2008 3:00 am

Lady panthers run to another cross country win

Written by Tribune Staff

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Powell High School freshman Desiree Murray (right) leads a group of runners during the Rocky Mountain Invitational last Thursday in Lovell. Murray won the race and helped the Lady Panthers to a first-place finish in the team standings. Tribune photo by David Dickey

PHS's boys squad earns runner-up spot

Powell High School's girls cross country team recorded their third straight first-place finish last Thursday during the Rocky Mountain Invitational at Foster Gulch Golf Course in Lovell. PHS's boys squad also enjoyed a solid performance and placed second.

The Lady Panthers, who also finished first at the Cody Invitational (Sept. 12) and Lander Invitational (Sept. 18), placed five runners in the top 12, including freshman standout Desiree Murray. Murray finished first overall with a time of 20:29. Close behind and in third was PHS's Lauren Dunleavy in 21:08.

Alyssa Rodriguez and Jordan Bigelow, with times of 21:32 and 21:36, claimed spots six and seven, and Skye Albert finished 12th in 22:17 to round out the scoring efforts for the Lady Panthers.

“The girls are really running well,” said PHS head coach Cliff Boos. “They've been running in tight groups in workouts, and they've been doing the same in the meets. I just can't say enough about how well they support each other and how hard they work when they train.”

In addition to the Lady Panthers who factored into the scoring mix, Boos said PHS had plenty of others with strong efforts Thursday. Kassey MacDonald, who placed 13th, knocked 71 seconds off her time from the 2007 Rocky Mountain Invitational. She finished this year's meet in 22:19. Kristi Mingus' time of 22:40 helped her land a 19th-place finish. Megan Darrow, who was 21st in 22:45, cut 50 seconds off her time from last year's meet at Foster Gulch Golf Course.

Thursday also was the first race of the year for McKenzie Danforth and Claire Wetzel, both of whom have been sidelined with various ailments. Danforth, according to Boos, finished the race and showed “plenty of bounce in her step.” Wetzel, hampered with a leg injury that slowed her during last spring's track and field season, ran near the front for a while last week, but Boos said her inability to train in recent weeks caught up with her.

“Claire had a nice start, but when you haven't been training, it will sure get you,” Boos said. “I know she was glad to be back, and hopefully she'll continue to overcome that injury.”

All totaled, the field consisted of five teams in addition to the Lady Panthers, including Worland, Rocky Mountain, Lovell, Thermopolis and Cody.

PHS's boys faced five other schools as well and claimed a runner-up finish behind Worland in the team standings. Cody's Ethan Slight won the individual title in the 5K event with an impressive time of 16:48.

Powell's top placer was Patrick Sullivan, who finished sixth with a time of 18:06. His time, when compared to his effort in the same event from a year earlier, was a one-minute, 41-second improvement, according to Boos.

Patrick Voss finished five seconds behind Sullivan for seventh place overall.

“Patrick Sullivan has done very well this year, and his times are really improving. Patrick Voss had another good meet, and he's got quite a future ahead of him if he stays with it.”

The event's 12th- and 15th-place runners were PHS's Danny McKearney and Devin Lynn, who finished with times of 18:47 and 19:44. For Lynn, his time was more than two minutes faster than last year's time in the Rocky Mountain Invitational.

“I'm so happy for Devin,” Boos said. “Unlike last year, he's been able to run without any pain at all, and that's great to see.”

The Panthers' fifth-fastest runner was Jake Firnekas with a time of 19:45, which put him in 16th place. In spots 17 through 19, Alex Speiser, Tyler McCauley and Colton Smith all registered times of 19:56.

“That was a close group there,” said Boos, who also noted that Smith's time was a two-minute, five-second improvement over last year's.

• Up next: PHS's cross country squads are slated to run in Worland Thursday. The event, according to Boos, will start at 4 p.m. with the competition for the varsity boys. The varsity girls will run following the completion of the varsity boys event.