The Panthers’ victory was accomplished with a pair of state championship runs by senior Kyle Sullivan in the hurdles, a near-sweep of the state’s relay titles and plenty of team depth. Afterward, Sullivan was named the co-3A boys’ track and field athlete of the year by the Wyoming Coaches Association.
Sullivan, who will compete for the University of Wyoming next year, shared the honor with Douglas sprinting specialist Justin Melton.
Sullivan cruised to victory ahead of teammate Josh Cragoe in the 110-meter hurdle finals on Saturday morning. Sullivan’s time of 14.35 seconds set a new record in Class 3A, nudging former Panther Justin Cross from the record book. In the 300-meters, Sullivan was looking for another record, but appeared headed for a photo finish with a hard-charging Ty Etchemendy of Douglas until the Bearcats’ sophomore hit the final hurdle.
“I didn’t know he was back there,” said Sullivan, who also earned the Best-of-the-best award for the lowest time in all classes for both hurdle races. “My coaches kept telling me to go, just keep going, but it was hard. The wind was pushing me and causing me to get tight to the hurdles.”
Etchemendy was eventually disqualified after an extended discussion among meet officials. The pivotal moment enabled the Panthers to breathe easier throughout Saturday’s afternoon finals.
“It helped,” Smith said of the Douglas mishap, which came just moments after a second Douglas runner had been disqualified for a false start in the race. “We still had to go out and compete. If we’d cratered, it could have been a different story.”
Sullivan also ran a leg in the state championship 4x400 relay. Unlike the drama the race has held in past state meets, the Panthers knew simply hanging onto the baton and finishing the race was enough to ensure the squad of a state title.
Instead, the team punctuated its state meet as Sullivan, Cragoe, Colby Gilmore and Zach Thiel finished in a time of 3:30.62, narrowly missing the fastest time in the state for the race.
The foursome won the event by nearly nine seconds over the runner-up team from Douglas.
Sullivan narrowly missed finishing his final high school meet with four state titles. Entering as the two-time defending high jump champion in Class 3A, Sullivan managed just a runner-up finish this season as he was edged by Lander junior Tanner Simpson in a head-to-head battle that saw some unique strategy employed.
After both competitors cleared the bar at 6-4, Simpson cleared 6-6 on his first attempt. Sullivan followed with a miss and then promptly passed on his two remaining jumps at the height, asking instead for the bar to be raised to 6-8, which would have been a new personal record in outdoor competition for the senior.
“When you get down to two people, the first tiebreak is the number of misses at the previous height,” said Panther head coach Scott Smith, explaining the strategy. “So when Kyle missed on his first attempt at 6-6, we knew he was going to have to clear 6-8 to win anyway. He’d already run two hurdle races, so it made sense to raise the bar and use his remaining energy trying to clear that height.”
Sullivan missed on both attempts at the new height, ending a reign of two consecutive outdoor and two indoor high jump titles.
Gilmore and Cragoe also ran on the Panthers’ 4x100 state title relay squad. Junior Marco Borja and freshman Jakob Bowers ran the other two legs as the foursome clocked a time of 44.67 seconds.
Gilmore would also add a state runner-up performance in the boys’ 400, finishing second only to Melton in a time of 51.73 seconds.
“This is a great way to go out as a senior, as state champions,” said Powell senior Drew MaGill, who saw a decorated high school track career come to a close. “It feels great.”
MaGill, who plans to attend college at Northwest in the fall, contrbuted in no small amount to Powell’s team victory. The senior turned in a triple jump of more than 43 feet to finish as state runner-up in that event. He also placed fourth in the long jump, the 100 and 200-meter races.
Also scoring state runner-up honors for the Panthers were 4x800 relay runners Tyler McCauley, Marshall McArthur, Justin Lynn and Thiel. Senior Jacob Beuster battled through snow and rain in the 3A discus to finish as the state runner-up in that event. Beuster led throughout much of the contest before Cody’s James Bushnell passed him in the second throw of the finals.
In all, the Panthers scored points from 28 different entries at the 2011 state championships.