Fast starts propelled the Powell High School cross country teams to a pair of top-five finishes at the Lander Invitational on Saturday.
The Panther boys took third with 68 team points while the girls took fourth with 101.
PHS head coach Cliff Boos said both teams applied the lessons learned in practice to jump start their races.
“They really got a good plan, got out aggressive and pushed each other,” Boos said. “We just always try to get the kids, when we’re doing intervals, to try to work together and push each other along.”
The aggressive strategy paid off, especially at a popular meet like the Lander Invite. Boos said lost ground is harder to make up in crowded fields.
“There was just a whole bunch of guys in there and I was real pleased with how well we were able to do,” Boos said.
Boys’ senior Alex Aguirre was the Panthers’ top overall runner. He cut significant time off of his personal best to finish in 19:14.41 and take fifth place.
“Alex knocked almost 2 minutes from last year, so he was pretty pleased with how he was able to run,” coach Boos said.
Freshman Alan Merritt was just two seconds and two places behind Aguirre. Merritt’s time of 19:16.70 was good for seventh place.
“He just continues to shine,” Boos said of his standout freshman.
Brandon Anderson was the third Panther and 14th boy to cross the finish line. The senior ran a time of 19:46.17, but the transfer did not have a 2014 time for comparison.
The girls’ top three runners finished in the top 14 as well.
The Panther girls were paced by sophomore Emma Andreasen, whose time of 23:13.17 was good for eighth overall. She was the only PHS girl to finish within the top 10.
“That’s over a minute off from what she ran last year, so she just continues to improve,” Boos said.
Teo Faulkner took 12th in the race with a time of 23:32.86. Sophomore JuliaKay O’Neill followed closely in 14th with a time of 23:53.73.
The boys’ fourth- and fifth-place runners placed in the low-20s, boosting the team’s score.
Sophomore Eyob Robirds was 21st with a time of 20:08.15, and sophomore Jesse Erickson was 23rd with a time of 20:32.84.
Anderson, Robirds and Erickson ran within 47 seconds of each other.
“We had a few guys running fairly close together,” Boos said.
Senior Lexee Craig finished in 36th with a time of 26:38.27, and sophomore Emily Sweet was 43rd, with a time of 27:51.84.
The Panther girls were without sophomore Maddy Hanks, who was their third-fastest runner last week at Sheridan, but Boos said “we did really good with the runners that we had.”
Powell competed in the Rocky Mountain Invite at the Lovell Golf Course on Monday afternoon, after press time.
The Panthers have just two days between that and their next meet, Thursday’s Worland Invitational, which is scheduled for a 3 p.m. start.
Boos said he will ease the team’s workload during Powell’s two-meet week in hopes to keep them fresh and injury-free.
“It’s good to see people getting healthy again and really running well,” Boos said. “(I’m) really encouraged about where we are at this point.”