Crested Butte Titans step it up at Gunnison meet

“I was really impressed with everyone’s effort and performances”

by Than Acuff

The Crested Butte Titans cross-country team often shines at the annual meet in Gunnison, and last Saturday, September 19 was no different as they posted two top-five finishes, a top-15 result and a host of personal records. In addition, several new runners to the high school program and the associated 5-kilometer race distance continued to make massive gains.

The day started with the girls’ race and a total of seven Titans lined up in the wave-start format, the most Crested Butte has had at a race in a long time.

“It was a smaller race with fewer teams so we were able to line up everyone who was healthy,” says coach Laura Puckett Daniels.

Ruby Pendy was the lone Titan in the first wave, earning her spot there with her performance last weekend in Alamosa. While Pendy is new to the sport, she is not new to racing, having been a Nordic skier for most of her athletic life. She continues to gain experience with each race and made another big step this past weekend, placing fifth in just her second high school cross-country race with a time of 22:30.

“She is really hitting her stride and proving to be a wonderful runner,” says Daniels. “The more experience she gets, the more amazing things we’re going to see from her.”

Maggie Whiting and Stella Reinhardt teamed up over the 5 kilometers to finish in 22nd and 23rd place, respectively, while Sam Merck, Lilla Laird and Grace and Ella Haverkampf were not far behind.

“We had three girls run their first 5-kilometer race and working together created strong races, a positive experience, and some really solid first efforts,” says Daniels. “I was really impressed with everyone’s effort and performances.”

The boys then lined up and Connor Williams continued his assault on the Colorado high school racing scene. Williams placed second last week to friend and fellow competitor Alex Baca from Gunnison. This time around, Williams took the win, running the course in a time of 16 minutes and two seconds, following his race strategy from start to finish.

“He had three goals,” explains Daniels. “One was to win the race. Two was to run the first two miles in 10 minutes and three was to have a strong surge midrace.”

Williams and Baca were neck and neck until Williams’ midrace push, where he managed to gain a gap on his friend and opponent. Williams then carried his momentum into the final mile to seal the win and set a new school record as well as an “unofficial” course record.

“For that last mile he ran hard to pull away for the win,” says Daniels.

Porter Washburn had a tremendous showing as well as he shaved 46 seconds off of his time on the same course last year to come in 12th place with a time of 19:27.

“He’s poised to have a great performance at regionals,” says Daniels.

Yvon Michel ran his way to a 25th place finish with four freshmen Ethan Kaufmann, Matthew Howe, Curtis Timothy and Connor Brown continuing to cut their teeth on the high school racing scene, with Kaufmann shaving more than two minutes off his previous 5-kilometer time.

“He’s making enormous gains,” says Daniels.

Daniels and the coaching staff are now focused on two aspects for their athletes. First and foremost is to try to get them healthy.

“Our biggest struggle right now is the midseason doldrums,” says Daniels. “We have a variety of aches and pains and we’re trying to get everyone healthy.”

In addition, they will continue to make the most of the shortened season with Montrose Relays as the only event between now and the regional race on Saturday, October 9.

“For some of our runners, the Montrose race will be their last race of the season,” says Daniels.

As for regionals, who will go to that race remains in flux as the region is still trying to figure out qualification parameters. As of right now, 12 of the 18 teams from the region will qualify based on a coach’s poll.

“Best case scenario is five of our girls and five of our boys will go to regionals; worst case scenario is only three total will make it,” says Daniels. “At this point it’s really hard to say.”

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