Titans track steps up in Grand Junction

“I think they’re surprising themselves”

By Than Acuff

While the level of competition at the annual Frank Woodburn Invitational track meet in Grand Junction can be crushing for smaller programs, the Crested Butte Titans took the bull by the horns and raised their game by posting a slew of season best times, achieving numerous personal records and stepping onto the podium amongst their 3A, 4A and 5A peers.

“Each race was super fun to watch,” says coach Shari Sullivan-Marshall.

Prior to the meet, athletes are seeded in their events so that heats are competitive with times in those heats determining the final standings. And while several Titans posted times fast enough to finish on the podium, their results in the respective heats were equally impressive.

“We were competitive in all of our heats which was great,” says Sullivan-Marshall. 

One of the day’s many highlights for the Titans was their work in the relays. Burgeoning roster numbers have allowed the coaches to flood the relays at meets all season long and, after a couple of tweaks to team lineups and additional work on handoffs, the Titans hit their stride in Grand Junction with a total of nine relay teams.

“We were able to put together really strong relays and every team ran their season’s best,” says Sullivan-Marshall. 

Piper and Katie O’Neill joined Josie Feier and Ruby Pendy to post the top relay result for the Titans with their third-place finish in the girls 4×800-meter relay. Giles Billick, Kenny and Sam Bullock and Jake Pendy ran to a fifth-place finish in the boys 4×800-meters, while Sophia Bender, Feier, Ilo Hawley and Mandala Covey-Bleiberg teamed up to place fifth in the girls 4×400-meter relay.

“We had fast times all around and having three relays place top eight was really exciting,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “We have four relays in contention to make it to state.”

The personal record and podium party spread into the distance events for the Titans as well. Ruby ran to a fifth-place finish in the 1600-meters, and 10 Titans set new personal records including Jake, who cracked the five-minute mark in his 1600-meter race.

“That’s a huge distance barrier to hit,” says Sullivan-Marshall.

But it didn’t stop there. The Titans continued to chip away at sprint events with Kelsey Clifton running to sixth place in the 110-meter hurdles and Bender taking sixth in the 400-meters, with 12 Titans racking up personal record times.

The team’s field events are a work in progress as evidenced by four more personal records set in Grand Junction, including Ethan Kaufmann who jumped a full two feet farther than his prior best in the long jump.

All of these accomplishments come from a Titans team with just four seniors, but the team’s younger athletes benefit from feeding off of the seniors’ experience and feeling comfortable to push their own limits no matter who they toe the line against.

“I think they’re surprising themselves,” says Sullivan-Marshall.

Unfortunately, just as the Titans are gaining speed, April Break arrives with no team workouts or meets for an entire week. The coaches have the athletes focused on strength workouts this week, and have created an April Break challenge for them over the week off. They return to workouts on Monday, April 24 with their next meet that Thursday, and Sullivan-Marshall is confident they’ll get back up to speed sooner rather than later.

“We’ve got some really motivated kids,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “I feel very positive about what’s going to happen after break.”

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