SALT LAKE CITY — Yanni Gallagher likes to save a little for the finish when he races.
And Wednesday afternoon the Kanab senior needed every bit of that kick — and a lean into the tape with his head that sent him sprawling onto the track — to defeat Rowland Hall's Ryan Westermann.
"Everyone was telling me to go," said Gallagher, who won with a time of 16:48.3. Westermann's time was 16:48.5. "He was about 20 feet in front of me when we got on the track. Everyone was cheering at the end, yelling, 'Go! Go! Go!'"
And go he did.
Gallagher closed the gap to catch Westermann, but it was the lean that gave him the 2A individual state title. He said falling on the ground didn't hurt, but it did confuse him.
"I dove with my head forward. It was like, 'What just happened?'" said Gallagher. "I seriously thought he had me."
Last year he finished 27th, but that might be because he was running with a broken foot.
Being healthy and running in a competitive region helped him, he said.
"I was running with all of those guys and they really pushed me," he said. "(Westermann) ran a really good race."
The Parowan boys won the 2A title, edging Rowland Hall 69 to 86. San Juan was third with 91 points.
"We knew it would be really close between us, Rowland Hall and Richfield," said head coach Mike Robinson. "The last two years we've had some disappointments, but we have great senior leadership this year in Ammon Blauer and Logan Reusch."
That, and the fact that a couple of the team's younger runners stepped up this season made a difference for the Rams.
"One advantage is that our region is really tough," said Robinson. "But they believed they could do it."
Easton Richardson was third with a time of 17:16; Caleb Zwhalen, North Summit, was fourth with a time of 17:21.3; and Ammon Blauer, Parowan, was fifth with a time of 17:27.2.
North Summit senior Erica Birk won the 2A individual title for the third straight season with a time of 18:23 — almost a minute ahead of the second place finisher, Emily Sundquist, a sophomore from Rowland Hall, who earned a time of 19:42.3. Third place was Grace Shults, South Summit, who finished in 19:47.9.
"I definitely felt pressure to win today," she said.
The anticipation leading up to the race has been excruciating.
"It's been horrible," she said laughing. "I've been trying to calm myself down, telling myself I was good enough."
Birk took up running because her mother, Nicole Wardrop, ran for BYU and her older sister ran for North Summit.
"I just did it because my sister did it," she said.3 comments on this story
Sophomore Emily Sundquist finished second with a time of 19:42.3.
Rowland Hall earned the girls team title with a score of 34. They had four runners in the top 10, with the fifth runner earning 11th place.
"We talked about running as a team and sticking together," said senior Kellyn Maves. "We didn't want to go out too fast. … It was very hard (not to) because you want to get up and be in first place."
San Juan was second with 71 points, while Enterprise was third with 87 points.