PHS girls among 3A frontrunners
A cross country season cluttered with meet championship and runner-up finishes culminates this Saturday as the Powell Panthers line up for the 2010 state cross country meet in Douglas. The Panther girls will race at approximately 11:10 a.m. Powell's boys are scheduled to depart the starting chute at 1 p.m.
As a school, Powell will be looking to return with possession of a state team trophy from its eighth consecutive state cross country appearance.
“We appreciate being able to come each year and be competitive,” said Panther coach Cliff Boos. “It's pretty amazing how kids have been able to funnel in year after year and we've been able to maintain some consistency.”
In recent years, it has been the Panther girls' squad that has carried the banner for the community. The Powell girls own two of the last four state titles and have also garnered a state runner-up and a third-place trophy as they prepare to capture a top-three finish for the fifth straight year.
“It will probably come down to us and Jackson, just like at regionals,” said Panther senior Kassey MacDonald.
MacDonald has found herself an increasingly popular person among her teammates this week. As the lone senior on the Panther girls' squad, she's the only member of her team to have actually set foot on the Douglas course that will host Saturday's state meet.
“I ran there as a freshman, so people have been asking me what the course is like,” MacDonald said.
One of those listening most intently to MacDonald's insights this week is junior teammate Desiree Murray. In addition to being a key cog in Powell's title aspirations this weekend, Murray will be looking to earn all-state honors for a third straight season.
“I definitely have expectations,” Murray said. “I want to keep it going and do it (earning all-state recognition) for all four years.”
In order to do that, the team will have to ward off the challenge presented by a Cody team that's been nipping at its heels for much of the regular season. They'll also need to close an eight-point gap with Jackson.
“At regionals, we didn't keep with Jackson as well as we should have,” MacDonald said. “They tend to go out fast whereas we're a little slower. We need to remind ourselves early not to chase.”
“We've been extremely fortunate that everyone stayed healthy with such a small group,” Boos said of the the girls' team, which had just seven runners on its roster for much of the season until the late addition of Alyssa Hildebrand, who placed 37th at the regional meet.
In reality, though, that group has been even smaller. Injuries prevented junior Alyssa Rodriguez from competing in a meet this year. Freshman Carly Klein was similarly shelved for a significant chunk of the year. As a result, Hildebrand will line up at state to provide the squad with an important insurance runner in the event of a mishap on the course.
“The girls have a good chance if they can run like they're capable,” said Boos. “It's been neat to see how the kids have pulled closer and closer time-wise to each other throughout the year.”
On the boys' side, the word of the week appears to be redemption. After growing accustomed to a spot in the top two for much of the year, the Panthers staggered back from the 3A West meet in Lyman last Friday with an uncharacteristic fifth-place finish.
“I think we went out too fast at Lyman trying to keep up with the pack,” said junior Bodie Friday, who narrowly missed earning all-conference honors last week. “I don't think we were ready to run a flat course like what we had down there.”
That shouldn't be an issue this week as the Panthers return to the terrain-changing environment they're accustomed to seeing the bulk of the season.
“There's a lengthy uphill section on the Douglas course,” Boos said. “The kids have to run up it twice as the course loops back to that section.”
“I'm excited for Saturday,” said the Panthers' John Kissner, one of eight seniors on Powell's 2010 roster. “We were disappointed at our performance last week and we're putting a lot of effort into practice this week to make sure it doesn't happen again. If we can keep our heads in it and not get caught up in the moment, I think we've got a good chance to do well.”
In addition to making amends for a fifth-place regional finish, the Panther boys will also be looking to improve upon last year's seventh-place team finish at the 3A championships. To do both, they'll have to rely on a lineup that doesn't feature any favorites for individual state honors.
“Our strength is really that we're a great team,” said Friday. “We just go out there and we stick together. We get in a group and just run, and that really helps.”
The Panthers' work ethic has also helped the group throughout the season according to Boos.
“All the kids have really worked hard in practice,” said the Panthers' head coach. “That's really what has stood out about this group. They've stayed focused and they compete well, but they've also had fun practicing and just being together as a team. Hopefully we'll get to Douglas and they'll do the best they can, because they certainly deserve it.”