Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Those who show up to cheer on the state’s best high school runners as they compete in the state cross-country championships Wednesday will see more than new champions crowned.
They will likely see history being made.
The question isn’t whether new records will be set, but how many.
“It looks like it’s going to be a gorgeous fall day for everybody to come see probably the fastest race on the state course in state history,” said American Fork head coach Timo Mostert of the competition that starts Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. with 1A girls and ends with 5A boys at 3:30. Races start every half hour with the start in Sugarhouse Park and ending at Highland High's track. “There are so many loaded teams this year, and as you go down the list, so many talented individuals we’re going to see a lot of records go down.”
The record time of 14:54.6 (on the state course) was set in 2007 by Judge Memorial’s Luke Puskedra.
Based on the times this year’s boys have turned in throughout the season, that mark could be in jeopardy. Consider that last week, American Fork’s Connor McMillan ran the region course (Westlake) in 14:32.9. The Cavemen’s fifth runner crossed at 15:14.9, giving the nationally ranked (No. 3) team the fastest team performance in state history on a three-mile course.
“It’s just crazy,” said Westlake head coach Aaron Robinson. “It’s extremely close in 5A — two through six. Maybe as close as it’s ever been.”
Most coaches agree the meet is American Fork’s to lose. Mostert, whose program has won four straight 5A boys titles, is more modest.
“We try to focus on our race plan,” he said. “We can’t worry about any other teams and what they’re planning to do. If we run as fast as we’ve trained to run, then we’ll have a favorable outcome.”
Robinson said the Cavemen, who returned five members of last year’s team that finished second at nationals, are clearly superior to any other boys team.
“The way American Fork is running, it’s a battle for second,” Robinson said, pointing out that at the Westlake Invitational a couple of weeks ago, the Cavemen ran their boys junior varsity team and placed fifth. “If their JV can run that well, it tells you how far ahead they are from the rest of us.”
Davis head coach Corbin Talley, whose boys are ranked 38th nationally, agreed.
“I don’t think anybody can challenge them unless they have a really bad day,” Talley said. “There are five or six teams fighting for second, and it will be a fight.”
Robinson points out that a few weeks ago at Westlake’s Invitational, Bingham, Lone Peak, Davis and Westlake were all separated by 10 points. That means every fraction of a second matters from a team’s best runner to its fifth.
And while the state’s best individuals have goals and aspirations beyond the state championships, Mostert said it’s the culmination of months of grueling training.
“This is very important,” Mostert said. “The postseason is everything that comes after it. Our main goal, every year, is to win the state championship. The rest is frosting on the cake.” This year’s team is led by Connor McMillan, who is ranked No. 28th nationally. The only other Utah boy in the national rankings is Alta’s Kramer Morton, who was listed as honorable mention. Both set course records in their respective region meets. Lone Peak is led by Clayson Shumway, Riverton is led by Brady Earley, Westlake is led by Austin Brower and Trevor Gibby, and Bingham is led by Andrew Brewer. McMillan’s teammate Zac Jacklin could also be in the mix for top individual honors.
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