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Titans cross country gains momentum in Hotchkiss

Bring home some hardware

by Than Acuff

Each cross country course provides a variety of challenges. The season-opening race two weeks ago in Leadville sits at 10,000 feet in elevation and hits runners with a healthy dose of high-altitude hills.

Last weekend, the Crested Butte Titans headed down in elevation to run in the Hotchkiss Invitational and, while lower than Crested Butte, the course was not without its fair share of challenges.

“My first impression of the course was that it was hilly with a lot of running through dirt and dust,” explains coach Laura Daniels. “The middle mile is named the Valley of Death and is a treeless, barren landscape.”

The Titans had seven runners line up for the race on Saturday, September 9 and when the dust literally settled, a couple of runners stepped to the top of the podium, one runner posted the best result of his high school career, and a couple of others suffered but still finished.

Daniels had a variety of goals for different runners as she has a mix of veterans and first-year runners who are making the jump from the three-kilometer distance in middle school to the five-kilometer distance of high school races.

“For the freshmen, we just wanted them to have a positive experience and for the older kids, we wanted them to work on pacing, putting in a hard effort and to feel good at the end.”

Seniors Sydney Petersen and Maria O’Neal led the team in Hotchkiss, with Petersen making her move early and holding it, while O’Neal eased into her pace and then proceed to pass her opponents throughout the race.

Petersen took off from the start line to take the lead immediately and while her split times showed the wear of a fast first mile, she still had little trouble holding her initial lead, cruising to the first cross country race win of her career with a time of 21:19.32.

“She went way fast on the first mile and dominated but we still need to work on pacing,” says Daniels.

O’Neal’s race was a bit more pace-heavy as she slipped into a comfortable spot through the first mile and then rallied her way through the field to finish in second place with a time of 22:44.19.

“After her Leadville race, she came into this one with a little ‘comeback kid’ mentality,” says Daniels. “She was able to pick off kids in the middle mile and had a really strong race.”

Freshman Myles Cress suffered at the hands of the heat and distance, yet, despite her struggle, still closed out her race to finish.

“It was not a super-fun positive experience for her but she surprised all of us with her perseverance,” says Daniels.

Senior Vincent Michel reached another milestone in his career as he pressed throughout the race to post his highest result, placing 10th in a time of 20:11.96.

“He went out pretty fast, stayed aggressive and kept his head in the game,” says Daniels.

Junior Max Faust had a rough go of it in Hotchkiss as stomach issues crept up on him throughout the five kilometers, leaving him in survivor mode, but he still gritted his way to the finish.

“I kept asking him if wanted to drop out but he just kept motoring,” says Daniels.

Freshman Joseph Stock followed in the footsteps of his senior leader Michel. Stock handled the distance free of any major issues and remained strong through the entire course to place 24th out of 71 runners in his first high school race.

“He followed the race plan really closely and had a really good first race,” says Daniels.

Meanwhile, freshman Yvon Michel appears to be getting used to the five-kilometer distance as well, as he shaved more than a minute off his time in Leadville.

Looking at the time difference between the first, second and third miles of her runners in Hotchkiss, Daniels has a plan for workouts as they prepare for their next race.

“They all went out pretty fast in the first mile so that’s what we will work on the next couple of weeks,” explains Daniels, “trying to chill out that first mile and channel that energy into the next two miles.”

The Titans will be in Gunnison this Saturday, September 16, and it will be a great opportunity for Titan fans to see the team in action. The racecourse is behind the Gunnison Middle School and the race starts at 11:15 a.m.

“It should be fast, flat and cooler with a home crowd. They’re super excited,” says Daniels.

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