Six Titans headed to 2A state track championships

“They’ve had their eyes on this prize”

By Than Acuff

The Crested Butte Titans track and field team wrapped up the regular season at the John Tate Invite in Pueblo on Saturday, May 11 and six Titans are headed to the state championships at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood Thursday through Saturday, May 16-18.

Mike D’Apolito qualified in the 110-meter hurdles while Sam Bullock, Max Sullivan, Giles Billick and Jake Pendy will represent Crested Butte in the 4×800-meter relay with Kenny Bullock traveling as the team’s alternate runner.

The final track meet of the season is always bittersweet and while the athletes had a variety of hopes in their last race, last jump or last throw of the season, one goal stood above the rest across the board at the Pueblo meet.

“We’re really looking for everyone’s best performances,” says coach Shari Sullivan-Marshall. “And that pretty much happened.”

While the athletes were hit with drizzle, then clear skies and then a steady rain to finish the day, the Titans remained true to the task set by the coaches setting 21 personal records (PR) on the day and eight season best (SB) results, including the boys 4×800-meter relay team.

The top 18 in each event from the season qualify for the state championships and while the 4×800 crew had been in the top 18 earlier in the season, they had since been bumped back with the Pueblo meet their last shot at state.

“Looking at times Friday night, I knew they had to take off at least six seconds,” says Sullivan-Marshall.

Sam, Sullivan, Billick and Pendy rose to the occasion starting with Sam who dropped six seconds off his best relay split to open the race. Sullivan and Billick ran their fastest splits as well to set up Pendy for a great finish with the team placing fourth at the meet and making the cut for state with room to spare.

“I knew it was doable and they ended up taking off 18 seconds,” says Sullivan-Marshall. 

D’Apolito, who just joined the team for his senior year, had posted a time earlier in the season that had him well within the qualification line. Nevertheless, D’Apolito put his full effort in for another race and with a strong start, was in the mix for top three early on.

“It was his best start all season,” says Sullivan-Marshall. 

Unfortunately, he clipped the fifth hurdle but battled back to finish seventh place and now his sights are set on the state meet heading in ranked 15th overall. 

With so many PR and SB times set at Pueblo, several more Titans stepped on the podium in the final meet. Kenny cracked five minutes in the 1600 meters for the first time to place eighth while Billick ran a PR in the 800 meters to place ninth. Cody Pleak ran a PR in the 3200 meters to place sixth while Flint Hoyt ran one of his two PRs that day to finish ninth in the 3200-meter run. In addition, the boys 4×400-mter relay team of James Brady, Billick, Colby Smith and Pendy ran to a sixth-place result.

On the girls’ side, Sophia Bender and Ilo Hawley both ran PR times in the 400 meters to finish second and third respectively. 

“Those were huge PRs for them and both are just sophomores and are knocking on qualifier times for state,” says Sullivan-Marshall.

Bender and Hawley also teamed up with Sage Johnson and Eva Loflin to finish fourth in the sprint medley relay.

The senior moment of the meet came in the boys 200-meter race as seniors Asher Arell, Ethan Kaufmann and Curtis Timothy decided to all run the event together and all set PR times in the end.

“That was really fun to see,” says Sullivan-Marshall. 

Those three athletes, along with seniors Connor Brown, Matthew Howe and Lilla Laird, have been part of the Titans program throughout high school and Sullivan-Marshall touts their contribution to the program throughout it all.

“They really gelled as seniors and as leaders,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “They definitely made the commitment to be part of this team and kept it going and kept the fun going.”

The state meet can be watched online at nfhsnetwork.com, look up CHSAA track and field when you get there. D’Apolito will run his 110-meter qualifier race on Thursday, May 16 at 4:15 p.m. and must finish in the top nine during qualifiers to make it to the finals on Saturday, May 18 at 10 a.m.

To reach finals Mike has to have a great start,” says coach Sophie Klein. “He is super strong during the second half of the race and usually passes people in the last five hurdles. When racing against the best in the state he needs to get out hard and react quickly to the gun. If that happens, he has a great chance of making finals.”

The boys 4×800-meter relay final is at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday and they have a chance at stepping on the podium as well, but the state meet for the relay teams is borderline chaos with 18 teams lining up for one race to get it done.

“They’ve had their eye on this prize. They’ve been working for this qualification all season long,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “We’re going to race for the podium, it’ll be a race.”

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