10 Titans qualify for regionals
by Than Acuff
It has been a strange season for the Crested Butte Titans cross-country team. While cross-country did get the nod to compete this fall, it came with parameters and the Crested Butte squad has suffered the brunt of those regulations. So much so that the team has been limited to two official meets this year and were almost looking at little to no potential for a post-season.
Fortunately, the Colorado High School Activities Association made the call last week to open the post-season to more teams than initially considered and both the Crested Butte boys and girls teams qualified for the regional meet.
Their post-season hopes weren’t due to a lack of talent or numbers either, as the Titans have the most runners out that they have seen in years and the list includes a number of returning athletes as well as a couple of new ones who brought some serious stride to the program.
Still, with COVID protocols limiting numbers at meets and Crested Butte’s geographic location limiting the number of possible meets, it’s been a season heavy on training and light on competition.
This past weekend was another example of that, as the team typically travels to Delta to compete in the Pantherfest and get a glimpse of the regional racecourse.
But, the Delta race organizers feared their numbers would exceed the maximum 50 runners allowed so they closed the door quick, leaving Crested Butte out of the running.
“That’s been the frustrating part of the season,” says coach Shari Sullivan-Marshall. “It’s definitely limited our opportunities.”
As a result, the coaching staff took 16 of their runners to compete in the Montrose Relays on Saturday, October 3. The Montrose Relays offer teams an opportunity for fun as well as training as they close out the season and prepare for the post-season.
“We had such a blast and to have a full squad at the starting line felt good,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “It’s good closure to the season for some of the runners and it’s an awesome way to go into regionals for others as it gives them a really good workout.”
Regardless of whether it was closure for some and training for others, the coaches did mark out a team-wide goal for all of their runners in the relay format—basically, set a pace in the first mile and then try to match that pace in their second and third mile splits.
“We gave them a goal to run really strong, consistent miles and they did,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
According to Sullivan-Marshall, most runners stayed within a minute of their splits; some remained within 30 seconds; and Yvon Michel and Myles Cress were the most consistent with a mere six-second gap between their mile splits.
In addition, with only two official five-kilometer races under their athletes’ belts this season, and just one for some of the runners, the coaches used the Montrose Relays to get a better sense for the pace their runners can and should maintain at the regional race.
“It gives us a good goal for the pace the kids going to regionals should run,” explains Sullivan-Marshall. “Now we can give them a time to shoot for.”
Meanwhile, the Titans’ top runner Connor Williams hit the road last week to compete in Arizona against some of the top runners from around the country. Williams is on pace for a collegiate career and made another step toward that goal in Arizona as he posted a personal record time of 15 minutes and 30 seconds to place 13th overall.
“That was a really cool opportunity for him,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
Williams is back now and the Titans are prepping for the regional race in Delta on Friday, October 9. Five girls and five boys will toe the line for Crested Butte on a course that tends to favor the Titans.
“It’s a flat course and we tend to have good races there,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
Captains Logan Utz and Yvon Michel will lead the boys’ team, with Cormac Billick stepping up to the start line, Connor Williams in the running for a regional title and state bid, and Porter Washburn in the running for qualifying for the state meet as well. Aksel Lindenmeyr and Ethan Kaufmann will be on hand as alternates.
Captain Myles Cress will lead with Ruby Pendy in the running for a top performance at regionals to punch her ticket to the state meet. Ella and Grace Haverkampf and Stella Reinhardt will also wear the Titan colors, with one of them taking on the alternate role.
The regional meet will be interesting, though. Rather than the typical mass start, it will be run like all meets this fall, in a series of waves. Meaning, rather than climbing their way past runners in one big race to get a sense of their place, they will still be reeling opponents in during their wave but without a sense of where they sit in the overall standings.
“It’s going to be really strange and the kids will be pushing against the clock and themselves,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
Still, if they all run at their peak at regionals, Sullivan-Marshall expects to see a handful make the cut for the state meet.
“We believe we have a chance to send one to three individuals to state,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “Any more than that would be icing on the cake.”