“In all, there were 20 schools that attended,” said Panther coach Cliff Boos. “All three of the large Billings schools are there. Bozeman comes over for it. It’s really quite a meet.”
Powell’s boys team placed sixth in the field, missing by one point of a place in the top five. Zander Andreasen paced the Panther harriers to the finish line with a 13th-place finish in a time of 16:54, just 47 seconds off the winning pace.
Unlike Wyoming, where cross country races feature a standard 5K distance, regulation cross country races in Montana are run on a shorter three-mile track.
“Zander took 41 seconds off his time from last season on this course,” said Boos. “He’s really working hard and he ran just a great race. There were 121 boys in the varsity race.”
Finishing not far behind Andreasen was Drew Feller, who clocked a time of 17:02 to place 16th overall.
“Drew has been fighting a bit of a respiratory issue the last couple of weeks,” said Boos. “I think he’s starting to get up to full strength, but he’s had a bit of a battle the last couple of weeks.”
Matthew Abraham placed 29th in a time of 17:33, nearly two minutes faster than his time on the course last season. Boos attributed the improvement to the junior’s off-season work. Ben Wetzel was 55th in a time of 18:29, despite the meet being his first-ever varsity cross country race. Grant Nickles rounded out the scoring portion of the Panthers’ lineup with a 60th place finish in a time of 18:33.
Like Abraham, Nickles shaved more than a minute from his time a season ago on the Billings course.
Chase Wellner (91st, 20:01) and Quin Wetzel (97th, 20:21) rounded out the Panthers roster for the meet.
“I’m excited for them,” Boos said of the boys’ team. “Three of them ran under 18 (minutes) in such a large field. What really struck me though is that they went up there with the expectation to do well, and they almost got in the top five. It’s nice to see that motivation.”
On the girls’ side, the Panthers didn’t have enough runners to field a full team. Bailey Sanders provided Powell with its best finish, placing 42nd in the field of 96 runners with a time of 21:30.
“That’s not bad,” said Boos. “That’s around a seven minute mile pace and it was 1:42 faster than she ran in Billings a year ago. She ran a good race.”
Sierra Morrow was the only other varsity runner for the Panthers to finish the race. Morrow ran a time of 23:11 to finish in 73rd position. Carly Klein began the race but was unable to finish as the girls’ team struggles against injury.
“Sierra’s ankles are pretty sore still,” Boos said. “Carly is still fighting to come back from a knee injury she suffered in soccer season. She tried hard to run, but she just wasn’t able to finish the race.”
Freshman Daisy Flores ran in the junior varsity section of competition for the Panther girls. Flores finished with a time of 26:30.
“That put her about in the middle of the JV pack,” said Boos. “She’s actually been having some knee issues as well. She had a meniscus tear from soccer that she’s been mending.”
The Panthers take this week off from competition. The team returns to action on Sept. 13 for the Cody Invitational. The meet will be held at Olive Glenn Country Club.