Panther cross country team races to fifth at state

Lady Panthers 13th; Merritt, Kolpitcke top finishers

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For the second week in a row, the Powell High School cross country teams competed on a familiar course, with each runner posting significant improvement on their times from earlier in the season.

Saturday was the 3A State Meet at the V.A. Hospital grounds in Sheridan, a course the teams ran in the second meet of the season back in September. Conditions Saturday were nearly identical to the first meet, right down to the beautiful weather, and PHS head coach Cliff Boos said the 14 athletes that made up Powell’s state teams all improved on their previous times.

“It’s really all you can hope for as a coach,” Boos said.

The Panthers finished fifth in the 15-team field, led by senior Alan Merritt, who finished 13th with a time of 17:17.30. Kayla Kolpitcke was the top finisher for the Lady Panthers, finishing 12th in a time of 20:15.31. As a team, the Lady Panthers finished 13th. Jackson won state titles in both the boys and girls’ events.

“It’s really nice to be able to see how you improve on a course from the beginning of the season to the end,” Boos said. “And if you look at the team scores for the boys, the top five teams all come from the western part of the state. That’s just a testament to the kind of runners we have out here.”

Panthers

Following Merritt in 18th place was fellow senior Jayden Yates, with a time of 17:29.41; Yates bettered his previous time on this course (18:34.54) by over a minute.

Star Valley’s Peter Visser was the top boys’ runner, finishing the 5,000-meter race in a blistering 15:56.21, the fastest time of the day for all classifications.

“Alan [Merritt] had an incredible improvement over his previous time here (18:03.92),” Boos said. “He did really well, as did Jayden Yates. They both worked extremely hard to finish the year strong. You hate to see them go as seniors, but the nice thing is I’ll have them both back for track in the spring, so they’re not totally gone yet.”

Sophomores Tyler Pfeifer and Joey Hernandez also cracked the 18-minute mark and placed in the top 30. Pfeifer was 22nd with a time of 17:50.45 and Hernandez finished 26th at 17:58.09.

“The usual suspects [Pfeifer and Hernandez] were both very competitive and really made an effort to place well as a team,” Boos said.

Lane Franks finished 68th with a time of 19:18.43, just under a minute faster than his previous time of 20:17.58.

“Lane Franks has really been coming along this season,” Boos said. “He plays soccer so he gets banged up now and then, but he finished stronger now and he finished with a couple of really good outings.”

Senior alternate Dylan McEvoy closed out his high school career with an 85th-place finish, running a time of 19:48.18.

Freshman Riley Schiller rounded out the Panther runners in 88th place with a time of 19:56.98.

Lady Panthers

Kolpitcke led the Lady Panthers with a 12th place showing, knocking over a minute off of her earlier time to finish in 20:15.31.

“Kayla knocked 65 seconds off her time. She’s really been consistently improving with each race,” Boos said. “She’s been running very competitive.”

Rawlins’ Sydney Thorvaldson won the event in a time of 17:34.68.

Freshman Kabrie Cannon was second for the Lady Panthers, finishing 51st with a time of 22:33.65, improving on her previous time of 23:35.14. She was followed by sophomores Hailee Hyde (24:44.54) and Madelyn Horton (24:45.97) in 82nd and 83rd, respectively.

Sophomore Elisa Polson was fifth on the team, finishing 87th in a time of 25:29.70. Fellow sophomores Jenna Merritt (26:08.21) and Tegan Lovelady (29:44.79) rounded out the Lady Panther contingent, finishing 91st and 103rd, respectively.

With no seniors on the girls’ roster, Boos said he’s excited to get all the girls back next season.

With another state meet now in the books, the long-time coach said this year’s teams were a special group to coach.

“Both the boys and girls, I’m just really pleased with how they ran all season,” he said. “Everyone worked really hard in practice, they really get after it and they have a lot of fun together. They’re a close team; nobody is ever by themselves. They enjoy each other’s company, and push each other to improve. Overall, it’s been a very successful season.”

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