What began as a cold, wintry morning soon turned to a gorgeous fall day on Friday, as the Powell High School cross country teams hosted the Powell Invitational at the Powell Golf Club.
Runners from 11 schools participated on the boys’ side, with the Panthers finishing third with 75 points. Hoover High School, a visiting team from Birmingham, Alabama, took the top spot with 53 points, followed in second by Lander with 58 points.
On the girls’ side, the Lady Panthers finished sixth out of nine teams with 140 points. The Cody Fillies ran to the top spot with 42 points, followed by Lander with 54, Buffalo with 79, Hoover High with 85 and Worland with 102.
“This was a really neat event this year,” said Powell head coach Cliff Boos. “We’ve had so many people help out to make this event happen. We got a lot of comments from coaches on how much they enjoyed the meet.”
On a day the Panthers celebrated its seniors, Alan Merritt was the top finisher, placing fifth with a time of 16:38.75. Merritt said his time was among his fastest for the season.
“I think I ran one of my better times,” Merritt said. “It’s been a good season so far, I’ve been running some good times. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Fellow senior Jayden Yates finished 13th with a time of 17:06.27, followed by sophomores Tyler Pfeifer at No. 24 with a time of 17:12.22 and Joey Hernandez at 41, clocking in at 17:38.80.
“We had the usual four guys in front, they keep turning in strong showings for us,” Boos said.
Lane Franks was 75th, with a time of 18:39.96, Cole Frank was 115th with a time of 19:03.55 and senior Dylan McEvoy rounded out the top seven for the Panthers, finishing 156th with a time of 19:08.71.
“Lane Franks snuck into that fifth spot for us this time,” Boos said. “It’s nice to not have to pick them now, all the kids can run at conference, and from there, that will pretty much decide our state team. What’s the fairest way to do it but with that?”
“We got to run against a lot of the teams from our conference again, so that was good,” Boos said. “The big question heading into conference will be good ol’ Star Valley; you never know what they’ve got going. But they always have good athletes and good competitors.”
Junior Kayla Kolpitcke continues to be the Lady Panthers’ strongest runner, finishing sixth with a time of 20:07.17.
“I felt good out there, and it’s really nice weather,” Kolpitcke said. “This is a good course. I think this was my second-best time [of the season]. And having the Alabama team here was really cool.”
Freshman Kabrie Cannon was 29th with a time of 22:30.26, while sophomore Hailee Hyde was 34th with a time of 24:29.89.
Fellow sophomore Jenna Merritt improved two minutes on her time from last year, finishing in 24:31.99, good enough for 104th place.
“Jenna’s been battling allergy and asthma problems all season, so I’m glad to see she’s geting back to where she should be,” Boos said.
Elisa Polson finished 140th with a time of 26:00.49 and Madelyn Horton was 177th with a time of 27:26.92.
“The girls are still battling some injuries, but they ended up in sixth place,” Boos said. “Overall, I saw a lot of improvement from a year ago, which is nice to see. They’re getting better with each meet, and that’s what you hope for.”
Next up for the PHS cross country teams is the conference meet Friday, held this year in Lander. It will be the last meet of the season that will feature all of the runners, as everyone is allowed to compete. This meet will determine who Powell takes to state the following week in Sheridan.
“Following conference, we’ll have to pick seven starters for each team as well as an alternate for each,” Boos said. “We’ve already run once at Lander, so it will be nice to be able to compare their times.”
With another Powell Invite in the books, Boos said he’s thrilled with how the event was conducted, as well as how his teams competed. He also singled out his seniors: Merritt, Yates, McEvoy and Pedro Teixeira for their leadership throughout the season.
“That is a beautiful spot out there, so I’m glad the weather cooperated,” Boos said of the Powell Golf Club. “And it was nice to be able to recognize the seniors at halftime of the football game, it’s really neat when we can do that. With those guys, it’s never about going around doing the ‘rah, rah’ stuff. It’s more leading by example. You look at Alan [Merritt], Jayden [Yates] and Dylan [McEvoy], those guys are just always there, always practicing, working hard, just doing what they’re expected to do. It’s nice to have leadership by example like that.”