Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Cross country isn't the most glamorous sport.
In fact, for most athletes, running is punishment. But for two local high school teams, running is the reward. And the efforts of the American Fork and Davis High boys cross country teams are earning them national recognition.
On Nov. 19, Nike held its annual Regional Cross Country meets, and not only did the Cavemen and Darts qualify for nationals, they finished in first and second place, respectively.
Coaches of both teams were pleased with how their teams ran, but they are also looking forward to seeing what they will do this Saturday at the Nike National Meet in Oregon.
It is the second time Davis has made the national meet and the third time for the American Fork boys. In fact, two of the Cavemen's best runners will be making their third appearance at the national meet.
For the nationally ranked teams — American Fork at No. 2 and Davis No. 3 — the expectations are high.
"I think the pressure affected us a bit last year," said American Fork head coach Timo Mostert. "We've talked a lot about that. Clayton (Young) and Mac (Morrison) have been there twice before. So we can talk about what works and what doesn't work."
Fluctuating in the rankings has been a good thing mentally.
"They realize that (rankings) are what other people think and they are not really who we are," he said. "We're just going to do what we've done all year — have fun and race fast."
Young, a senior, finished highest of the Utah runners with a third-place finish. His teammate Brayden McLelland was fourth, and Morrison, who won the 5A state individual title last month, finished in fifth place.
Davis High School's Brad Nye, who finished second in the 5A state cross country meet, finished sixth in the regional meet and will lead the Davis team looking to keep pace with their in-state rivals.
"Last year, we were just happy to be there," said Davis head coach Corbin Talley. "This year, this is the race we've been training for, and our goal all year has been to finish in the top five."
With less than two weeks between the regional meet and the national meet, both coaches said they focus on staying healthy and mental toughness.
"It's got to be more of a mental race," Talley said. "We'll try to get ourselves feeling right on that day. We're all healthy so that's a godo thing ... We do hope we run a smart race. I felt we ran hard in Arizona, but not our smartest race."
Both coaches said the runners look forward to the experience because Nike treats them so well, providing them with shoes, uniforms, food and the chance to compete against the country's best.
"They get to meet Olympians," said Talley. "The whole weekend is amazing for these kids. We're just going to go and enjoy it."
Mostert said his runners are just enjoying a little more affection from their classmates.
"It's nice to be recognized at school for them being the accomplished athletes that they are," Mostert said. "The weekend is incredible. Nike caters to them like rock stars."
It's quite an accomplishment for Utah to qualify two teams as they competed against 30 squads from five states.
The other members of the American Fork team competing are: Connor McMillan, Tyson Green, Zac Jacklin, and Dallas Griswald.
The other members of the Davis team are: Preston Johnson, Brayden Cromar, Skylar Williams, Logan Wood, Alex Hedquist, and Jackson Sagers.
Three girls qualified individually — Summer Harper, Orem High, finished second overall. And three Ogden High runners qualified and will compete at nationals as individuals — Sarah Feeny, a sophomore who finished in fifth place; Jamie Stokes, a senior who finished in sixth place; and Jordan Cross, a junior who finished ninth.
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