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Titan cross-country takes on competition in Grand Junction

“You could tell which kids used to live in Texas”

by Than Acuff

While the Crested Butte Titans cross-country team has been to Grand Junction for races before, they had never jumped into the Tiger Invite until last Saturday, September 10.

While the course was new, it was what coach Austin Ross expected, flat. As a result, Ross adapted workouts prior to the race to focus on getting his runners ready for the flatter terrain at a lower altitude.

“During the week we tried to focus on running flats and increasing our speed and will continue that for a while,” says Ross.

The other factor that always throws the Titans’ teams for a loop is the heat in Grand Junction. Fortunately, while the heat never turned on like it can in Grand Junction, it did still affect the Crested Butte team.

“It was not as hot as expected but still a warm day and that was a factor in the race,” says Ross. “You could tell which kids used to live in Texas.”

One such former Texas resident is Maria O’Neal. O’Neal has been getting her altitude legs under her but with the race lower in altitude than most, and the temperatures actually cool when compared to Texas, O’Neal thrived.

O’Neal latched on to the lead pack from the start of the race and held her pace throughout to take fourth place overall among varsity girls.

“She ran an outstanding race,” says Ross. “I told the kids going in that it was a race to run consistently and quick and that a consistently strong race would do well. She ran a really consistent race and that’s what it took. It was really exciting to see Maria have a breakout race.”

Sydney Petersen did not fare as well in the heat relative to Crested Butte. While Petersen was near the front at the start, dehydration took its toll but she gritted it out to still place 20th.

“Sydney struggled with the heat and she is more than capable to be up where Maria was,” says Ross.

Mia Shanks stepped into the varsity fray for the first time, and while the pace was a bit overwhelming, she still held up to the challenge.

“It was a tough day and she handled it well,” says Ross.

Ross also touts the effort of Max Faust as he continues to climb his way through the JV ranks.

The team will have their only local race this weekend as they line up in Gunnison behind the middle school at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 17. It will be another flat course and Ross will continue his training accordingly.

“We’re going to keep working on running fast and keeping a consistent pace,” says Ross. “We’re in a speedy chunk of the season right now.”

The race is also part of the Titans Homecoming festivities and Ross is looking for some hometown support in Gunnison Saturday morning.

“We’d love to have some fans out there cheering us on for the Homecoming event,” says Ross.

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