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Cross country team ramping up for post-season

“Most of the training has been done, they just need to hold on to it now”

by Than Acuff

The Titans cross country team made the most of the perfect weather and fast course to shatter personal records across the board at the Delta Pantherfest last Friday and now head into the October Break full of confidence as the post-season approaches.

The team got a big boost of energy the weekend prior to the Pantherfest as they took a weekend off from the high school racing scene to remain at home and partake in Emma Coburn’s Elk Run 5k, lining up with current Olympians, professional runners, locals and Emma Coburn herself.

“It was a nice break but it was also cool to be around that much energy of so many runners,” says coach Laura Daniels. “Overall it was super fun to be running in front of a hometown crowd and super cool to see all of those elite runners.”

While the event provided a great boost to the team as they headed into the week of workouts, the impending October Break had a debilitating effect as Titans were noticeably distracted.

“It was kind of a stressful week as we were missing runners and practices were super-scattered,” says Daniels.

Yet, once the chaos subsided and the team boarded the bus headed to Delta, Daniels had seven runners all focused on the task at hand.

The Delta Pantherfest provides a number of opportunities for the Titan runners. First of all, it is also the location of the regional race so it gives the Crested Butte runners a preview of the course. Second, the Pantherfest attracts numerous larger programs and faster runners, making for a competitive atmosphere not typically seen when the Titans run against other smaller programs.

“It’s a very competitive meet, which is really cool because when we run against 2A schools. Our top runners are usually by themselves up front and it’s hard to push it by yourself,” explains Daniels. “At these races, no one is ever alone and they get a feel for what it’s like to be in a big pack and have other runners drive them.”

Daniels is speaking specifically about Titan runners Sydney Petersen and Maria O’Neal. Petersen has racked up numerous podium finishes throughout the season with O’Neal not far behind and when they lined up amid a stronger field in Delta, they thrived on the level of competition.

Petersen battled with some of the top runners from throughout the Western Slope to come in ninth place overall with a personal record time of 18:45.30, 46 seconds faster than her previous best time. The time was also just a little over three seconds off the school record, currently held by Erin Kelly.

“For her to drop that kind of time is incredible,” says Daniels. “It was perfect weather and a fast course and those two factors helped, but her training is what’s really paying off.”

O’Neal finished the day in 14th place and while she fell shy of setting a personal record (PR), she appears to be peaking at just the right moment.

“Maria was solid and she’s getting close to her PR and getting faster and faster,” says Daniels.

Myles Cress followed in Petersen’s footsteps setting a PR by 35 seconds and continues to gain confidence in her first year running in high school.

“She continues to improve every week and runs with so much heart,” says Daniels.

The boys team had four runners make it to the Pantherfest and with both Vincent Michel and Max Faust gone, that left Joe Coburn as the de facto leader. Coburn seized the opportunity to slash over a minute off of his previous PR time.

“Joe was a great leader that day and took a minute and eight seconds off his time,” says Daniels. “We talked about running around 18:30 and he ran a full minute faster.”

Joseph Stock continued the PR day for the Titans, cutting over 45 seconds off, as did Yvon Michel and Logan Utz.

“All of the PRs, I kept checking my watch to see if it was really happening,” says Daniels. “It was a really awesome day because everyone ran really well and they’re starting to see what they’re capable of.”

Now, with the October Break at hand, it is up to the runners themselves to determine how the season will finish out.

The Titans that are still in town will head to Montrose on Saturday, October 14 for the Montrose Relays and then the entire team returns to Delta on Friday, October 20 for the regional meet.

“We’re crossing our fingers that everyone is training over break,” says Daniels. “Most of the training has been done, they just need to hold on to it now. It could make or break how we do at regionals.”

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