Young, fast Panthers XC team caps off season with strong runs at league, regional meets
Middle Park sophomore Dane Jansen led the Panthers at the Colorado 3A Region 1 Cross Country meet Friday at VIX Park in New Castle, capping off an impressive season for the young group of runners.
Early in the season, the Panthers competed in a number of big races with larger Class 4A and 5A schools.
“We were teaching them to get out fast and go hard,” coach Beth Merrick said of the Panthers’ demanding schedule. “The boys have learned this very well.”
Apparently, it showed. Finishing the regional race in 18 minutes, 43 seconds, Jensen placed 19th overall and top among the Middle Park boys. Close behind him were teammates Calvin Ciccarelli (23rd, 18:58), Ewan Gallagher (24th, 19:00) and Eli Boomer (30th, 19:14).
Rounding out the runners for the MPHS boys were Silas Montandon (47th, 20:26), Jonah McKnight (61st, 21:19), Britton Burns (73rd, 22:31), Michael McCray (76th, 22:45) and Patrick McCray (84th at 23:56).
Overall, the Panther boys finished sixth as a squad among the 12-team field. Alamosa took home top honors ahead of Gunnison in second place and Moffat County in third.
The top four teams and 15 individuals will move on to the state championships, and the Panther boys only missed punching their ticket as a team by six points.
“The boys did everything that they could,” Merrick said. “I told them they were a bubble team to get into state, and they gave it their all.”
Merrick said that Boomer and Gallagher both poured their hearts into the race and took good chances during their runs. As a result, Boomer was the top freshman at the regional meet among all the teams.
“Dane had an over all gutsy race,” Merrick added. “So did Calvin. I don’t think I’ve ever seen (the boys) run with so much heart and want it so bad.”
In the girls race, freshman Josie Nance led the Panthers with a 25th place finish in 22:13. One slot back, Middle Park sophomore Sierra Manyak took 26th at 23:13.
Showing how badly they wanted to qualify for state, Nance and Manyak missed no practices the entire season. They didn’t make it this year, but Merrick said that the duo is still young and will be in a great position to make state next year.
Following Nance and Manyak were Kylee Boomer (35th, 22:48), Leah Cormican, (37th, 23:07), Sylvia Brower (55th, 24:56) and Alaina Mears (63rd, 25:38).
“Kylee ran like I’ve never seen her race,” Merrick said. “She raced her heart out for her team. We told the team to run for something bigger than themselves — meaning if you’re hurting, think about your team and do it for them. When we told her to pass girls ahead of her, she’d do just that. What an amazing effort.”
The Panther girls took seventh as a team in the 11-team field. Alamosa completed the sweep with another team victory in the girls race, and Basalt was second with Aspen third.
Late during the regular season, the Panthers coach was sidelined when her family came down with COVID and could not attend practices or even the Panthers’ home meet.
“The kids rocked it without us,” Merrick said of the time she couldn’t be with Panthers, who finished in second place in both the boys and girls team standings at the league race.
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