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Panther girls take second

The Powell High School girls scored their highest finish at a state track meet since 2000, scoring 69 points to finish as the Class 3A runner-up. The Panthers topped everyone except Park County rival Cody.

“It’s great for our girls,” said Powell head coach Scott Smith. “It has been a number of years since we’ve brought home a girls’ trophy.”

Despite making the annual trip to Casper, this was the first time the Powell girls had not returned home empty handed since claiming third-place honors in the 2001. That was also the last time the Panthers scored more than the 69 points they amassed at this year’s state meet.

To find the last time Powell scored a runner-up finish at state, you’d have to go back another year, to the spring of 2000.

Powell managed just one state title in Casper. The Panther girls’ 4x800 relay team of Desiree Murray, Sierra Morrow, Tally Wells and Kassey MacDonald entered the state championships as the overwhelming favorite in the event and delivered in a big way. The Panthers, who earlier this season shattered a 22-year-old school record, scored a 17-second margin of victory, running to a time of 10:05.98.

The time was even more impressive considering the race was run under less than ideal conditions. The stadium scoreboard showed 45 degrees as a persistent rain fell throughout the race.

“This feels awesome,” said MacDonald, who was also part of the Panthers’ 2010 state champion 4x800 squad. “It was a lot less stressful this time. Last year was such a close race. This year we had a lead and we were just able to run.”

Outside of the first 250 meters or so, the Panthers never trailed in the race. A small pack of runners managed to remain reasonably close in its pursuit until the third leg. Over the final 300 meters, sophomore Tally Wells transformed a roughly 20-yard lead into a gap of more than 60 yards. After the baton was passed to MacDonald, the lone senior member of Powell’s 4x800 roster simply continued to stretch the team’s lead through the final two laps.

The Panthers also received a pair of state runner-up finishes from Murray. Murray placed second in the 100-meter hurdles and the 400 meter finals. She was running stride-for-stride with the race leaders coming down the home stretch of the 300-meter until clipping the final hurdle and stumbling to a third-place finish.

Senior Karly Thomas added an eighth-place finish for Powell’s girls in the 300-meter hurdles.

MacDonald and Wells also weren’t done scoring points for Powell. MacDonald would place fourth in a pivotal 1600-meter race for Powell on Saturday. The Panthers produced four of the top eight runners in that race to take the upper hand in their battle with Glenrock and Wheatland for the No. 2 trophy.

Tess Mitchell, Morrow and Wells placed sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, in that race to help produce some needed Powell points.

“That was a big race,” said Panther assistant track coach Tracy McArthur. “We were able to score 11 points in that race with just the 200 and the 4x400 remaining and we knew Glenrock didn’t have a runner in the 200. They really stepped up.”

In fact, thanks to the team’s effort in the 1600, the Panthers lined up for the 4x400 relay finals knowing the runner-up trophy was already secured.

MacDonald also placed fifth in the 800 meters for the Panthers while Wells and Mitchell finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 3200 meters.

Powell’s only other top three finish came in the shot put ring. Freshman Shawnea Harrington began her state championship career with a heave of 37-6 to place third.

In all, Powell scored points from 16 entrants, including all three relay squads. Of the team’s 69 points, all but 10 were scored by non-senior athletes. Similarly, just three of the weekend’s 12 relay legs were run by senior class members, indicating the Panther girls might not have to wait another decade before picking up their next team award.

Cody captured the 2011 Class 3A state title with a whopping 141.5 points to give the state championships a decidedly Park County flavor.

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