Boys cross-country team battles at state championships

Team takes ninth place

By Than Acuff

After three months of training and racing, logging countless miles of running, the Crested Butte Titans boys’ cross-country team peaked as individuals with everyone improving on their times from last year on the same course and rallied as a team to place ninth at the 2A state championships in Colorado Springs on Saturday, October 28.

The team has been all about “team” all season long with their five top runners often trading out who leads the pack in races. Their teamwork not only paced them to several top finishes at meets against bigger teams throughout the regular season, but also paced them to the regional title.

But the state meet is an entirely different level as runners can get swallowed up in the mass start of 136 athletes. While the Titan coaches did work on fast starts and then finding their pace with their runners, it’s still a daunting task given the state championships start line.

“We do practice getting out hard, but nothing replicates that mass start,” says coach Shari Sullivan-Marshall. “So, we talked about them knowing where they should be in relation to each other and in relation to familiar teams. I think they all executed great race plans.”

With each runner stepping up in their own way at each race, this time it was Jake Pendy leading the Crested Butte charge. Pendy made a point of going out fast and quickly found himself in the top 25 runners. As the race continued a pack of 10 runners pulled away and Pendy was amid 15 others throughout the rest of his race and pushed down the stretch to finish 21st with his best time of the season, a result that garnered him all-state honorable mention accolades.

“He just battled,” says Sullivan-Marshall.

Cody Pleak was the next Titan to cross the finish line. Pleak ran a minute faster than he did at the same race on the same course last year to come in 42nd place while Giles Billick had come back from an ankle injury to toe the line and finish 66th, a minute and 20 seconds faster than last year.

“He felt his achilles a little during the fast start so he backed off a little but worked his way back up through the pack,” says Sullivan-Marshall.

Flint Hoyt worked with Billick through the first mile and found his pace to work his way through a large portion of the field crossing the finish line in 76th place and posting a time over a minute faster than last year. Meanwhile, Max Sullivan hit two major benchmarks in his young career. Not only did Sullivan run a new personal record time for the five-kilometer distance but he had a goal to crack 19 minutes and did that while Colby Smith worked through some nagging pain to post a time 23 seconds faster than his effort last year.

“He just ran with such grit and strength,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “All of the runners never gave up until they crossed the finish line. Last year only three of them broke 20 minutes and this year all six of them broke 20. Our guys were primed to race their best and they did.”

While times and placings are the easiest way to gauge success and progress in a program, Sullivan-Marshall believes there was more to just numbers with this crew.

“This year the biggest growth was their growth as a team,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “They all got better because of each other.”

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