“They raced well and that’s all we can ask for”
By Than Acuff
After five weeks of workouts, the Crested Butte Titans cross-country team lined up for their first meet of the season at the Grand Junction Tiger Invitational on Saturday, September 9. While the size of the meet and the size of the teams can be overwhelming, the Titans took it in stride and showed significant improvements across the board compared to their effort at the same race last year.
The girls’ race opened the day and the crew of seven Titans, six sophomores and one senior, found themselves among 90 total runners. Several of the young Titans raced in the JV race last year in Grand Junction, but the coaches decided all seven should line up in the varsity race this year.
“It was definitely a little chaotic in the beginning,” says coach Shari Sullivan-Marshall.
But once the Titans got through the initial race start bedlam, they settled into their pace and posted strong times. Two athletes set new personal records for the five-kilometer distance and two ran 30 seconds faster than they did on the same course last year.
“They all had strong second miles which was great to see and were still passing people in the final half mile of the race,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
The coaches were most excited about how close their top five runners finished—there was a little less than two minutes between their top finisher, Sophia Bender, and their fifth place runner.
“That’s encouraging because that wins races as a team against similar sized schools,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “They raced well and that’s all we can ask for.”
The boys then took over the course with seven Titans in the varsity race and three in the JV race later that day. Jake Pendy typically leads the team, but was coming off an illness and tapered workouts to get himself back to health. With Pendy compromised, other Titans stepped up their games as Cody Pleak led the boys and had the top result of the day among all Titans, running two minutes faster than last year to place 16th in the stacked field.
Flint Hoyt followed suit to shave two-and-a-half minutes off last year’s effort to be the next Titan to cross, Pendy came through after Hoyt and Giles Billick and Max Sullivan rounded out the team scoring for the Titans and helped push them into a fifth place team result.
“We’re deep on the boys’ team so if someone’s not having a great race, we have others that can fill those gaps,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
In addition, the top five boys were close in times between the first finisher and the fifth finisher setting them up for success as a team when they get to the 2A regional meet later in the season.
“That’s super encouraging for regionals when it counts to be close together and up front,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “It was a great day for everyone.”
The Titans will be racing in the valley this weekend as they line up for the Mountaineer/Cowboy Cross Country meet behind the Gunnison Middle School on the Van Tuyl property on Saturday, September 16. The boys’ race is at 11 a.m. with the girls’ race starting at 11:45 a.m.
“Get your groceries and come and watch,” says Sullivan-Marshall.