Titans track opens race season in Delta

Snow be damned! Again…

by Than Acuff

It’s nothing new for the Crested Butte high school Titans track team. Snow blankets the fields and mud and slush fill the streets, forcing the team inside for pre-season workouts. Making matters even tougher, there’s snow in Gunnison as well, so the team has been left without any semblance of training on an actual track the first three weeks of the season.

Head coach Laura Daniels returns for another season of track and field and has called upon Mitchell Robertson and Ryan Conrad to assist in corralling and training the team of more than 30 athletes this year.

Robertson helped out last year and brings extensive knowledge of the sport of track and field to the program, having competed and studied the sport at a higher level.

“He is a phenomenal athlete and brings extensive training and biomechanical knowledge to the team,” says Daniels.

Conrad is new to the program this season and brings a key element to the staff with his genuine love for running.

“He is super passionate and enthusiastic to share his love of running with the new generation,” says Daniels.

The coaching staff took pre-season workouts in a new direction this season, focusing on other elements of the athlete as a whole rather than focusing on running.

“We took a different path, focusing on strength, conditioning and mobility,” says Daniels, “getting them some strength and form before throwing them into running.”

The team got their first taste of competition two weeks ago when they headed to Montrose for a pre-season meet, but they officially jumped into the competition season on Saturday, March 16 at the Delta Panther Invite. With illness running rampant through the school, 16 Titans made the trip to the first race of the season in Delta and Daniels used the occasion to focus on the details of a meet and experimenting with events rather than times and places in races.

“We weren’t even trying to get starting times to build on,” explains Daniels. “It was more about getting down how a track meet works—exposing them to new disciplines and new events to see where their talents lie.”

Still, with limited workouts, a couple of Titans appear to be hitting the season at pace, as Sam Merck and Josh Merck both recorded solid results at the first meet.

Sam stepped up to the starting line for the 800 meters and finished with a time of 2:52.76 to place sixth. She then tacked on a fourth-place finish in the high jump, making for quite a start to her season.

“Sam is just a freshman and I was really excited to see her place in both events she competed in,” says Daniels.

Older brother Josh had an outstanding showing in his first 200 meter race of the year as he posted his fastest time of his high school career to win. He also jumped to a second-place finish in the long jump.

“He had a tough junior year last year with injuries, so for him to come out in his senior year like that was a really great start for him,” says Daniels.

Other notable efforts came from Hilt Freeman, who set a personal record in the 200 meters and finished 10th in the 400 meters. Several freshmen had a great experience in their first high school meet.

“A lot of our younger runners saw personal bests,” says Daniels. “They’re young but they have a lot of enthusiasm and dedication and I’m excited to see what happens.”

The team is headed to Hotchkiss this Saturday, March 23 for their next meet and if the athletes are able to shake off their illnesses, Daniels hopes to focus on some new elements during the races.

“I am hoping we have enough so we can start playing around with the relays,” says Daniels. “That will be the learning focus.”

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