Six Titans represent at 2A state track championships

4×800 relay team steps onto podium

By Than Acuff

The Crested Butte Titans track and field season came to a close as six Titans carried the blue and white to the 2A state championships at Jeffco Stadium on Thursday, May 16.

Senior Mike D’Apolito was the first to toe the line for the Titans competing in the 110-meter hurdles preliminaries on Thursday. D’Apolito had a great regular season in the event breaking the school record and then resetting the school record in the event and qualifying for the state championships ranked 15th overall. All without a proper training facility.

“Not having a track to work out on every day is tough,” says coach Shari Sullivan-Marshall. “Most hurdlers are doing a workout on a track five times a week.”

“He worked really hard at his ‘between hurdle’ speed this season, which is why he was able to lower his time,” adds coach Sophie Klein.

Eighteen athletes would compete in two preliminary heats on Thursday with the top nine advancing to the finals making for an intense atmosphere as the hurdlers line up.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “You’re really close to the start the whole time you’re waiting for your race, it’s a lot. False starts stink because if you false start, they boot you.”

The coaches felt D’Apolito had a chance to advance to the finals, but it would take a perfect race to get there. While D’Apolito did break his school record once again in his preliminary heat, he ended up 12th on the day missing a spot in the finals.

“He ran his best and that’s all we can ask for,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “He ran a great race that was really exciting.” 

“His reaction to the gun wasn’t as fast as the rest of his competitors but he caught them by the first hurdle, which shows how much he improved on his start throughout the season,” says Klein. “He was able to maintain his position during the race and passed someone in the last few steps. Even though he didn’t make finals he did improve his seed and had a season PR (personal record) so we’ll take that.”

While his finals bid fell short, Sullivan-Marshall believes his school record will stand for quite a while. Finn Wilson had the previous record of 17.04 set back in 2018. D’Apolito set the new school record in the 110-meter hurdles of 16.42.

“It’s going to take a while before it gets broken again,” says Sullivan-Marshall.

An hour later, the boys 4×800-meter relay finals were set to start with Sam Bullock lining up for the first leg, Max Sullivan the second, Giles Billick taking the baton for the third leg and Jake Pendy set to bring it home in the anchor leg with Kenny Bullock ready to step in as an alternate.

The 4×800-meter relay is a whole other beast as 18 teams line up all for the same race with two teams per lane, and each lane divided into two alleys.

“They need to stay in their alleys until they hit the first curve,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “They need to keep it clean and stay on their feet at the start, but Sam handles it really well.”

Sam did have another clean start, and another fast split, as he shaved another two seconds off his best time to hand the baton to Sullivan with the Titans in eighth place. As the top seven teams started to gap the rest of the field, Sullivan fended off a surge from a couple of teams behind him to keep the Titans in eighth place as he passed the baton to Billick.

Two runners passed Billick at the start of his leg, but composure was the key ingredient as Billick remained on pace and then with 200 meters left, he pushed to return the Titans to eighth place with his fastest split of the season as he sent Pendy on to finish it off.

Pendy was also passed early on and as the final leg continued, the runner in front of Pendy built a 15-meter gap leaving the Titans in ninth place with 200 meters to go. But Pendy fought back, reeled in his opponent and nipped him at the finish line to push the Titans to eighth place overall taking eight seconds off their previous best time and earning a spot on the state championships podium.

“Jake has a pretty vicious kick and out-leaned him at the line,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “It was a super exciting relay. They all just held calm, knowing the strength they had and did what they know and did it a little bit better.”

While state accolades are one way to measure a program’s success, Sullivan-Marshall looks at all 27 of her athletes as having successful seasons.

“Every athlete reached a PR in at least one of their events,” says Sullivan-Marshall. 

The Titans say goodbye to six seniors and Sullivan-Marshall admits that may affect sprint relays but with such a young team, she’s looking forward to even more from her team at the big show next year.

“We have a great chance getting more at state as the team gets older and more experience,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “It’s really exciting.”

“I am very happy with the season overall,” adds Klein. “A few of the relays on the girls side got really close to qualifying for state so we have some good momentum for next year.” 

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