Cross-country roars at Pantherfest

Personal records set across the board

[ by Than Acuff ]

The Pantherfest course in Delta can be hit or miss and it all has to do with the weather. While the course is relatively flat and fast, the heat can wear down runners, especially mountain town athletes like the Crested Butte Titans.

But, on Friday, October 1 the Titans were met with favorable temperatures as they made the most of the course to set a slew of personal records feeding off the massive field of runners from teams throughout the state.

“It was cool and cloudy, making that notoriously fast Delta course even faster,” says coach Laura Puckett Daniels. “There were quite a few big schools with pretty impressive programs and we wanted them to run their own race but use the energy of the bigger field to be competitive.”

While the boys’ team was missing their weekly front-runner Connor Williams, the seven Titan boys that made the trip had stellar performances in Delta. Jake Pendy led the Titan charge as he posted a new personal record (PR) time of 17:31 on the course to finish 22nd overall and the first freshman runner of the entire field to cross the line.

“Our typical races are usually smaller so I’m glad he got a sense of scale and context of what’s out there in the state,” says Daniels. “It’s healthy early in your career to be a small fish in a big pond.”

Just last week Cormac Billick cracked the 20-minute mark, a notable step in his first healthy season of running after missing most of his sophomore and junior years with injuries. In Delta he took it to another level as he broke 19 minutes with room to spare posting a PR time of 18:47.

“Watching him have these breakthroughs is rewarding,” says Daniels. “It’s a testament to his persistence.”

Giles Billick is at the start of his high school running career as a freshman and he is following a typical path for new runners setting another PR and closing in on the 20-minute mark with a time of 20:38.

“It’s always exciting with new runners,” says Daniels. “He’s racing with a lot of toughness but also with a lot of intelligence.”

Matthew Howe and Ethan McCombs continued the PR party but the big move came from Connor Brown who chopped close to three minutes off his previous best time.

“He unlocked something new in himself,” says Daniels.

Ruby Pendy had the top result among the Titans’ team as she embraced the massive field of fast runners to push herself to a new PR time of 19:02 to come in 10th place.

“We were really hoping she would break 20 minutes and to come in at 19:02 was beyond what we conceived,” says Daniels. “She’s got more to give.”

Sophia Komarek took 46 seconds off of her previous PR and captain Sam Merck remains consistent throughout her final year of high school cross-country.

“Sam continues to lead by example,” says Daniels. “I’m really appreciative of how Sam steps up for her team.”

The cross-country team has a meet in Aspen this weekend and will continue partial workouts through the October Break with a regional race at the end of the break before they get back together to prepare for the regional meet back in Delta on October 22.

“Aspen is a true cross-country course so it’ll be good for them to throw away time sheets and just focus on effort,” says Daniels. “We’re super excited for regionals.”

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