Run far, run fast

Posted 10/22/09

When the starting gun goes off in Sheridan on Saturday, the Panthers will be looking to return to the podium as the 3A girls' state champion. The boys' team will be looking for its first title since cross country was re-instituted as an …

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Run far, run fast


{gallery}10_22_09/crosscountry102209{/gallery} Powell's Desiree Murray, shown here running at Cody earlier this season, earned all-state cross country honors as a freshman. This Saturday, she'll look to repeat as the Panthers line up at the state cross country championships in Sheridan. Tribune photo by John WetzelFor Panther harriers, only one race remainsFor Powell High School, the whole cross country season boils down to one five-kilometer race. After an adventure-filled year that saw the team's home meet cancelled due to snow and a rash of injuries and illnesses that rarely enabled the Panthers to compete at full strength, that race arrives Saturday.

When the starting gun goes off in Sheridan on Saturday, the Panthers will be looking to return to the podium as the 3A girls' state champion. The boys' team will be looking for its first title since cross country was re-instituted as an official sport at the school.

“We don't really look at it in terms of making a goal for where the team finishes,” notes Powell head coach Cliff Boos. “For us, it's about doing the best you can individually on that day. The numbers are going to fall how they fall, but if we do our best and improve where we can, then we've been successful.”

That said, it isn't hard to detect the desire running through the Panther girls' lineup.

“It would definitely be nice to get two (state titles) in a row,” said sophomore Desiree Murray, who earned all-conference honors last week in Lander and who also scored all-state honors as a freshman. “Especially since we didn't get a regional championship, it would be nice.”

Murray, like many of the Panther girls, has had her battles with injury and illness this season. The team is hopeful that it can run near full strength on Saturday.

“It has been difficult to get us all in a race this year,” Murray notes. “Things definitely haven't gone as smooth as they did last year.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Panthers were absent two team members at practice, both fighting off illness. It's that sort of sickness that could be one of the wildcards at this year's state meet.

“You assume everyone is in the same shape you are,” notes Boos. “But you're never certain. There isn't a lot of discussion among coaches at the meets, so you just assume that every school is dealing with the same sorts of things that you are. It definitely feels like we've had more than our share this year though.”

While the 2009 season might not have run as smooth for the Panther girls as it did in 2008, there's certainly every chance the season can end as joyfully as it did last year. In terms of team times, the Panther girls trailed Jackson by just 32 seconds at the 3A West meet, hardly an insurmountable margin in a race where each competitor will spend more than 20 minutes out on the course. Assuming both schools can run at full strength on Saturday, it doesn't appear any of the schools from the eastern region are positioned to crash into the lead group.

One of the keys to the race on Saturday could boil down to which school has the better fast-track runners. The state tournament layout was described by several returning Powell runners as a good course for times and relatively flat.

“It is a nice, fast course,” Boos said of the layout for the state championships. “There aren't many hills to speak of.

The course is on grass almost the entire distance. There's no rough spots. It's like running through a college campus with the brick buildings and the grounds.”

On the boys' side, the primary objective among Powell runners appears similar.

“Beat Jackson,” senior Matt Condie said of one of the team's goals for Saturday. “We hadn't seen them before last week and we didn't run real well in Lander. It'd be great if we could win state for the first time since they brought the program back.”

Unlike the girls' race, several other schools could join Jackson and Powell in the 3A boys' title hunt. The Panthers have split meetings with Douglas at meets this season. Familiar 3A West foes Lander and Worland were only two points back in the conference standings.

“We'll have to run a good race to stay ahead of them,” said Boos. “That's why we stress doing well individually.

Our goal is for everyone to finish ahead of as many people as they can and the numbers will take care of themselves.”

Hampering the Panthers' chances of a boys' title will be the absence of junior Cody Fagley. Consistently the team's top runner throughout much of the season, Fagley missed the 3A West meet with illness. On Wednesday, the Panthers' coach confirmed that he would not be lining up as part of the state field either.

“I feel bad for him, because he was such a strong runner for us,” said Boos. “At this point though, he's just looking to get over it and get to track season.”

That loss opens the gate for other Panther runners to experience the thrill of competing at state.

“I was surprised I qualified,” said sophomore Wyatt Horner, who finished as one of the seven fastest Panthers last Friday in Lander. “I thought running at regionals was epic, but this is going to be bigger.”

The 2009 Wyoming state cross country championships take place Saturday on the V.A. Hospital grounds in Sheridan. A total of six races will be run, starting with the 2A boys' championship race at 10:30 a.m. Powell's boys will run at 11:40 a.m. The day will conclude with the 3A girls' championship race at 1:25 p.m. The awards ceremony will follow the finish of the 3A girls' race.

Those planning to attend the state meet are asked to honor the designated parking areas as some portions of the grounds will be reserved parking for hospital staff members only. Powell fans should also note that two state championship races precede the start of the 3A boys' race, so late-arriving fans could be required to park away from the race grounds and walk to the site.

Fans should also be aware that, unlike most meets, admission is charged for the state cross country meet at a price of $4 for adults and $2 for students. Pets should not be brought to the state cross country course.