High school sports: State's best cross-country runners are ready to vie for titles
Tom Smart, Deseret News
Hundreds of high school runners will converge on Sugarhouse Park on Wednesday to try to make history.
For some it will be simply a matter of seeking to achieve a personal best.
But for others it will be a chance to accomplish something special as a team.
All five classifications will run, starting with 1A girls at 11 a.m. Teams will take off every half hour until individual and team champions are crowned in one of the state's most grueling sports.
Here is a breakdown by classification of this Wednesday's meet.
Corbin Talley said the comparisons are futile.
"This is my best girls team ever," said the Davis head cross country coach. "It's not even close, like shattering team records."
The girls have raced in Idaho and Utah and are undefeated.
"We've raced every team in Utah," said Talley. "We haven't been touched. So if we lost, it would be an upset."
The team is led by defending 5A individual champion Shea Martinez and Ellie Child, who are both seniors. The group is so deep that 10 girls have run 20 minute or faster races this season.
Bingham's Emily Rich could challenge Child and Martinez for individual honors.
On the boys side, American Fork is a heavy favorite with Davis a close second. The defending 5A state champions have been almost untouchable in meets. The Cavemen are led by Connor McMillan, while Davis is led by Alex Hedquist and Brayden Cromar. Davis has run well against American Fork, but the Cavemen haven't lost to the Darts this season. Bingham is a close third, and the Miners are led by Andrew Brewer.
This may be the most unpredictable of all the classifications.
Herriman, Mountain View and Bonneville are all legitimate contenders in the boys' race. Mountain View is the defending state champions on the girls side of the 4A battle and should be in the mix once again with Orem, Timpview and Mountain Crest in the mix.
Orem's Summer Harper is hoping to do better than her second-place finish, but she has teammates who could challenge (Ashley Runyan and Candace Greenwood), as well as Skyline's Caroline Weiler, Mountain Crest's Miranda O'Very, Box Elder's Hannah Malone, Salem Hills' Sierra Malm and Mountain Crest's Tori Parkinson.
There are a number of individually talented male runners who will make the race exciting, starting with defending state champ Timpanogos' Jacob Heslington, Logan's Jerrell Mock, Sky View's Conner Mantz, Bonneville's Cade Perry, Box Elder's Adam Hendrickson and Herriman's Chuk Mitchell.
The battle for the girls' team will likely come down to defending state champion Park City and Ogden. The Tigers were ranked nationally but injuries hurt the team's performance midseason.
"I think we're back in the ball game," said Ogden head coach Don Hall. "They say in cross country you're only as good as your fourth and fifth runners, and I think this race will come down to the fourth and fifth runners. We give full credit to Park City. I think it's going to be a donnybrook."
Ogden is led by Sarah Feeny and Jessica Sams, while Park city is led by Alisse Walker and Annie Orr. Aimee Bryson, Cedar, could challenge for individual honors.
As hopeful as Hall is for his girls team, he's certain this is the year of the Ogden's boys team.
"They kind of tired of being in the shadow of the girls," said Hall. "Jordan Cross is one of the top three or four boy distance runners in the state. Unfortunately, he's living in the shadow of (Park City's) Ben Saarel (who's won every meet he's run this season), who is the top runner in the state across all classifications."
Hall said his boys don't just want to best the state's other 3A teams on Wednesday, they're looking to send an unequivocal message.
"They're out to prove something," Hall said. "They have a goal to, even though we're not racing Herriman and Davis head-to-head, try and run faster times on the same course, the same day."
The boys race should be interesting as Parowan lost two of its top three runners to graduation last spring. Richfield is favored as the Wildcats return all of last year's scoring runners this season.
Grand's Jacob Francis, Rowland Hall's Ryan Westermann, Caleb and Hudson Zwhalen, North Summit, and Richfield's Caleb and Steven Monsen could all contend for an individual championship, as well as lead their team to a trophy.
The Rowland Hall girls are heavy favorites as the defending state champs graduated just one of their top five runners. The Winged Lions are led by Emily Sundquist.
San Juan, North Summit and Enterprise could compete for team honors, while Olivia Moyle, Enterprise, Grace Shultz, S. Summit, Marissa Smith, Beaver, Katie Judd, North Summit, Natasha Moore, Beaver and Hope Reitz, Richfield, will all be in the mix for individual honors.
Panguitch will be looking to repeat on the girls side, thanks to some talented multi-sport athletes. St. Joseph, Rich and Wayne could also challenge the Bobcats.
Last year's runner-up, Catania Holman, returns as a sophomore to try and earn that top spot. St. Joseph's Lyna Garcia, Rich's Emma Peart and Wayne's Lauren Jackson could all vye for top honors.
Monticello is the defending 1A champion on the boys' side, but they'll have to run well to repeat. Bryce Valley and St. Joseph's have strong teams and will make the race one of the day's best.
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