Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It's a good thing that Cyprus High School senior Jamal Tongo quit soccer and decided to focus on running.
Spending much of his youth in Ethiopia he proved the best of the lot on Saturday in the Deseret News High School 10K by winning in a time of 30.47 and besting nationally known runner Wade Meddles by 25 seconds.
Tongo was born in Sudan, grew up in Ethiopia and moved to Utah four years ago and has been training by running 80 miles per week.
"I love the mountains," Tongo said, explaining why he likes living here.
Little known before this race, he was a late entry and not listed on the program.
As for Nevada's Meddles, he was a little disappointed after placing third in the Foot Locker National High School Cross-Country meet and taking second in the Deseret News 10K. He said he thought he should have run in the 30-minute range but he really didn't get to train in Utah.
"I just got in last night," he said, and all things considered he was OK with his performance saying, "it was a decent time."
He's ready to go off to college at Azusa Pacific in Southern California where he will compete in cross-country and indoor and outdoor track.
Third place on the boys side of the race went to Davis High's Austin Neuner who said this was only his second 10K ever. He finished at 31.17 just five seconds behind Meddles and is looking forward to his senior year at Davis — trying to improve on his sixth-place showing in the mile at state this year.
In the girls' half of the race, Kelsey Braithwaite took the first place medal in a time of 36.37. She will be a junior at Box Elder High School this fall and has her sights set on the Olympics. She competed in the National Junior. Olympics last summer in North Carolina and wants to run a marathon in the Olympics.
"I am better at the longer stuff," she said.
MacKenzie Chojnacky of Jerome, Idaho, placed second at 37.23. This was her first ever 10K. Two weeks ago in Twin Falls she finished in first place for all women in a triathlon.