Powell athletes produced 40 season-best performances at the regional meet in Pinedale, indicating the teams are peaking at just the right time. The Panther boys produced 26 of those season-best times and distances as they rolled to an almost 85-point victory and earned 3A West coach of the year honors for the second time in three seasons for Smith.
Powell’s girls amassed 140 points, but could manage only a runner-up trophy as Cody totalled 195.5 points.
“That might be the most points we’ve ever scored at a regional meet,” Smith said of the boys’ team total. “I’d have to go back and look. If it isn’t the most, it’s very close to it.”
As for the girls’ score, Smith noted it was just a case of bad timing.
“Last season, 140 points would have won a regional title,” he said. “That’s not a bad score by any stretch.”
Between the two teams, Powell qualified a whopping 72 entry slots — 28 girls, 44 boys — into the state championship meet, which begins on Thursday. It was hard to view an event without seeing at least one Panther athlete turning in a personal record for the season.
On the girls’ side, senior Karly Thomas was one of five Panther athletes to turn in multiple season bests. Thomas surpassed her fastest times of the season in both the 100-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles, qualifying in both events for the state meet. Thomas was also part of a 4x100 relay team that lowered its season-best time on Saturday.
Distance runners Sierra Morrow and Kassey MacDonald surpassed season bests in two events. Throwing specialist Marquette McArthur surpassed her best marks of the season in both the discus and the shot put while junior Kendra Ostrom topped her previous 2011 bests in both the high jump and the triple jump.
As for the sheer magnitude of improvement, it was hard to look beyond freshman Tori Sleep, who surpassed her previous high-school best throw in the discus by 19 feet with a heave of 111 feet in the finals. Sleep placed third overall in the event.
Desiree Murray was Powell’s only individual champion on the girls’ side. The junior captured titles in the 400 and 300-meter hurdles with ease. Murray crossed the finish line nearly two full seconds in front of the rest of the 400-meter final field while taking a 1.5-second victory in the 300-meter hurdles.
Murray also ran with teammates Morrow, MacDonald and Tally Wells on the regional champion 4x800 relay team. The Panthers’ winning time of 10:24 was well off their school record time of 9:53 recorded one week earlier, but still placed the team more than 14 seconds ahead of runner-up Lander.
On the boys’ side, freshman Hayden Cragoe turned in three personal bests. His weekend started by adding more than a foot onto his season-best pole vault clearance. He would go on to surpass his top triple jump distance of the year by more than a foot and also added an inch onto his best high jump to date.
Sprinters Marco Borja and Colby Gilmore and hurdler Cameron Bennett all surpassed their season bests in two events at Pinedale.
The Panther boys also crowned a number of regional champions. Drew MaGill won the 100 and 200-meter titles, the former coming on a photo-finish. Not to be outdone, Gilmore followed suit in the 400 meters, also using a late-race lean to win the regional title as Powell finished 1-3-4 in the race.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Powell’s Kyle Sullivan needed no such late-race drama. Sullivan comfortably won the 300-meter hurdle title while leading a 1-2-6 finish with Josh Cragoe and Bennett in the 110-meter hurdles. Sullivan even turned in his top high jump performance of the 2011 outdoor season, going 6-4 to capture a third regional title.
Also earning a field event title was Panther senior Jacob Beuster. Beuster uncorked his top discus throw of the season, going nearly 152 feet, to win the title.
“It’s so hard to single out any one performance,” Smith said. “All the kids just really stepped up. I think the story of the meet is how our second, third and fourth kids in some events did. Those were the kids that really stepped up and scored some extra points for us.”
To be sure, several events at Casper this weekend will have a decidedly Powell flavor to the field. Of the 14 non-relay events, the Panther boys have three or more state entries in 11 of them. The Panthers qualified the maximum number of four entrants to the state meet in the 400, 1600 and 3200-meter races.
The Panther girls will have three or more entrants in four individual events, including a full field of four runners in the 1600 meters.
Despite the gaudy numbers, the Panthers will have their work cut out for them in Casper. The Douglas boys scored more than 225 points in earning the 3A East regional title and look to provide the Panthers with their toughest obstacle to a state title. Powell’s girls, meanwhile, will have to continue their season-long pursuit of in-county rival Cody, while also contending with a number of talented eastern 3A schools.