Cross-country battles on home course

“There were so many layers that made it such a unique event”

[ by Than Acuff ]

It was an incredible morning as close to 200 runners prepared for the Emma Coburn 5k high school race in Crested Butte Saturday, September 25.

The last time the race was held in Crested Butte was in 2018 and six teams showed up for that event. This time around, 13 teams, including a handful of larger programs from the Front Range, made the trip to Crested Butte to race at altitude on a unique course that started and finished in downtown Crested Butte and included a brief tour of town before heading out Peanut Lake Road and then back.
“It was a really cool mix of programs and really a very different course from what we typically see,” says coach Laura Puckett Daniels. “Very few take place on roads, it’s kind of a cool hybrid.”

The day opened with 86 girls lining up in downtown Crested Butte at 8:30 a.m. with the announcer calling up each team to the start line under a big arch and a gun start from former Titan high school cross country/track athlete turned World Champion and Olympic Bronze medalist steeplechase runner Emma Coburn.

Ruby Pendy continues to turn in top 10 results this year and did so again on Saturday lining up against some extremely fast runners from bigger schools following a plan her coaches laid out for her.

“Our goal is to have her tuck in behind some super fast girls,” says Daniels.

Pendy did that through the first third of the race, then ramped back a little to cross the finish line in eighth place.

Sophia Komarek and Sam Merck fed off of the energy at the race as Komarek cracked 24 minutes for the first time posting a time two and a half minutes faster than her first race of the season and Merck posted her fastest time of the season by a minute.

“We’re seeing real fitness gains in Sophia and the cool mountain air was perfect for Sam,” says Daniels.

The boys then lined up with the same pomp and circumstance and while the expectation was Connor Williams would get a run for his money, he did not as he pushed himself all alone at the front of the pack to win easily.

“Even with all of the extra competition, he still won by a lot,” says Daniels. “He’s running fast and even times and is poised to break out and run quite a bit faster.”

Jake Pendy continued his streak of setting a new personal record time with each race this season to place 11th overall.

“He continues to impress,” says Daniels. “It’s cool to see him believe in himself and rise to the challenge.”

Cormac Billick was the next Titan to come across breaking the 20-minute mark for the first time in his high school career and Porter Washburn and Giles Billick contributed to the Titans’ team score with their results pushing the Titan boys’ team to a fourth place finish overall.

“Cormac is getting stronger every week, Porter just needs to figure out some fueling issues and Giles just continues to show a lot of grit,” says Daniels.

Matthew Howe, Ethan Kaufmann and Connor Brown also carried the Titan colors in the race as they continue to build on their high school racing experience.

The Titans then turned their attention to cheering as 1,100 runners lined up for the Elk Run 5k race soon after getting a glimpse of some elite runners in action, as well as their coaches.

“It was really cool because they got to then cheer on their coaches and we don’t get that at any other race,” says Daniels. “There were so many layers that made it such a unique event.”

The Titans head to Delta on Friday, October 1 for the Delta Panther Invitational. The course is fast and the field huge with 23 teams set to show up.

“It’s going to be awesome,” says Daniels. “It should be a really high level of competition.”

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