Track hits end stretch

Posted 5/20/10

The Panther boys are well-positioned to deliver. The team takes at least one entry in each of the meet's 17 events.

In almost each of those events, the Panthers have at least one competitor projected to score team points by placing in the top …

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Track hits end stretch


{gallery}05_20_10/track{/gallery} Powell triple jumper Kyle Woodward was one of several Panthers to record season-best performances in Jackson last week. The team will look to continue that trend starting today (Thursday) at state track and field competition in Casper. Tribune photo by John WetzelPanther boys in position to defend 3A titleThe Powell Panthers look to defend their 3A boys' state title as the Wyoming State Track and Field Championships open today (Thursday) at Harry Geldien Stadium in Casper. After a dramatic win a year ago, the team knows it is showing up with a bulls-eye painted on its back.“A lot of people around the state have high expectations for us,” said senior Matthew Condie, who will be looking to build upon last year's fourth-place finish in the pole vault. “I'd like to go out as a team and prove those expectations right.”

The Panther boys are well-positioned to deliver. The team takes at least one entry in each of the meet's 17 events.

In almost each of those events, the Panthers have at least one competitor projected to score team points by placing in the top eight.

“It shows that we have a good work ethic on this team,” said sophomore Josh Cragoe, one of several multi-event qualifiers on the Panthers' state track roster. “We're looking to be the best we can be, not only as individuals, but as a team.”

And while both team and individual comparisons are easy to make, there's at least one person choosing not to look at such things.

“I don't get too caught up in those numbers,” said Powell High School track coach Scott Smith, who was named the 3A West boys' coach of the year last week. “If you start looking at that, you lose focus on picking your knee up or pointing your toe and all the other little things you did that got you to the state meet.”

The Panthers did several of the little things well in Jackson last weekend. Several members turned in personal records as part of their regional championship performance.

“We need to see that continue through this weekend,” said Smith. “Sometimes you go to state and continue improving. Sometimes you go and crater for whatever reason. We need to make sure we're working to improve and get ready to compete as best we can. After that, the team numbers will fall where they will.”

Barring something bizarre, those team numbers should fall in a way that puts the Panther boys in a battle with the state's two other front-runners, Douglas from the east and 3A West runner-up Jackson, for the title. It is a position many of the Panthers appear to be taking in stride.

“I'm almost a little more laid back this year than I was last year,” said senior Andrew Young, part of a trio of Panthers who will compete in the throwing events at Casper. “We've been through it before and we know the competition better. I feel like our side of the state had the better competition, so we know what we need to do.”

On an individual level, the Panthers have a number of competitors who could contend for individual state titles. Kyle Sullivan is the defending 3A high jump champion and also carries strong chances in both the 110 and the 300-meter hurdles. Drew MaGill ranks among the state's best in all four of his events — the 100, 200, long jump and triple jump. Colby Gilmore should be one of the top 400-meter specialists in Casper. And then there's the 4x400 relay team.

The 4x400 carries a special mystique after clinching last year's state title for the Panthers. This year, the Powell foursome of Gilmore, Sullivan, Cragoe and Zach Thiel carries the fastest 3A time of the season into Casper with a 3:31.59 clocked last weekend in Jackson. Could that group be called upon to deliver similar drama this year?

“It's definitely something I've thought about,” said Cragoe. “If it happens, it happens. If we run our best race, I don't think anyone can beat us.”

The Panther boys aren't the only team projected to be in the thick of a title chase this weekend. Powell's girls can't be blamed if they, too, are sitting in Casper harboring thoughts of coming home with some hardware.

“It would be great to pick up an award on the girls' side,” said Smith, whose team placed 15th just two years ago.

“We're not taking many more girls than we did last year, but the kids we have going are doing a lot more (at state) than they did a year ago.”

Whereas the boys' team race is expected to quickly establish a hierarchy of front-runners, the girls' team standings in Casper could remain in a state of chaos well into Saturday. The school holding the state champion's trophy on Saturday may not be the one with the most standout competitors, but the one that does the best job of packing runners into the important 3-8 spots to siphon as many points from each event as possible.

“One year we went over with a lot of regional champions and regional runner-up kids and didn't do well at all because we were in a weaker region,” said Smith. “This year, I feel like we're taking kids that were third or fourth in a really good region that are capable of finishing high at Casper.”

That's not to imply the Panther girls are without a favorite to capture individual state gold. Sophomore Kendra Ostrom turned in 3A's top regional height of 5'1” in the high jump and has been among the class front-runners for much of the season. Desiree Murray has one of the fastest 400-meter times on the girls' side of 3A.

The 4x800 relay foursome of Brooke Nisley, Alyssa Rodriguez, Skye Albert and Kassey MacDonald was less than two seconds in back of Jackson. The two schools should, again, be running clear of the pack in Casper. Meanwhile, the 4x400 foursome of Nisley, MacDonald, Rodriguez and Murray, like their boys' team counterparts, currently hold the top time in Class 3A, having edged Lander by one-hundredth of a second in regional competition.

“We've got a number of kids that I think, if they have a good day, are capable of really good finishes this season,” said Smith. “That's really all we ask. If a kid goes out there, does their best and gets a personal record, as a coach, how can you want anything more?”

The 2010 Wyoming State Track and Field Championships run through Saturday at Harry Geldien Stadium on the campus of Kelly Walsh High School in Casper.