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.
In addition to American Fork’s No. 3 national ranking (dyestat.com), 4A’s Ogden is ranked No. 15, Lone Peak is ranked No. 16, Bingham is ranked No. 17, Riverton is ranked No. 30, 4A’s Orem is ranked No. 33 and Davis is ranked No. 25.
Westlake isn’t nationally ranked, but it upset Lone Peak in the region meet, which indicates just how tight the competition really is.
On the girls side, Davis is ranked No. 1 in the country and is clearly the 5A favorite. 3A’s Park City is ranked No. 7, American Fork is ranked No. 35, 4A’s Skyline is ranked No. 36 and 4A’s Ogden is ranked No. 38.
“We’re a pretty heavy favorite,” Talley said of the Davis girls team. “American Fork could definitely give us a challenge and Bingham has two great individual runners.”
Because the girls are so heavily favored, the Darts are focused on a prize not many can attain.
“We’re going for the team time record set by Bingham in 1999,” Talley said. That record is the combined times of a team’s top five finishers, and Bingham’s girls team set the mark at 93:49. “That’s been a goal of ours to see if we can beat that time.”
He said he’s glad the Darts won’t face Park City’s team until regionals.
“They’re really tough,” said Talley. “We’ll race them in Arizona, and I look forward to that.”
The top individual girl is Herriman’s Lucy Biles, who edged Ogden’s top runner, Sarah Feeny, to win the Bob Furman Invitational. She won her region meet easily, finishing 40 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher. Jordan’s Tavia Dutson, Bingham’s Marlee Mitchell and Whitney Rich, and Davis’ Aubrey Argyle (freshman) and Taylor Cox (senior) will try to compete with Biles.
In 4A, the team titles won’t be as hotly contested as the Ogden girls look like the clear favorites and Ogden and Orem boys are the front-runners for the team title.
Both nationally ranked, they’ll also get some pressure from Timpanogos and Skyline.
“I think Ogden has a slight edge over everybody else,” said Skyline head coach Tom Porter.
The Tigers are led by Mike Buckley.
Sky View’s Conner Mantz is the favorite for an individual championship, while Feeny is the favorite on the girls side. Timpanogos’ Mary Christensen and Box Elder’s Hannah Malone are also talented individual competitors.
The Ogden girls are also considered the favorites in the 4A team competition.
“They have a slight edge on us, but it’s going to be a tight race,” Porter said. “Ogden has really come on strong, but it’s tough to compare region times. Our region could have four of the top five teams.”
In 3A, the edge belongs to the Park City girls team. They’re ranked No. 7 nationally and have gotten stronger as the season’s progressed. They’re led by Alyssa Snyder and Maddie Chriscione.
On the boys side, Deseret Hills is the front-runner, with a handful of other squads in the mix. This is the most wide-open of the team competitions.
In 2A, the race for both boys and girls looks to be wide open. Last year’s champ, Richfield, moved to 3A, so Millard, North Summit and Rowland Hall should all compete for the team title. Last year’s state champ Ryan Westermann, Rowland Hall, returns and leads a very tough Winged Lion team. North Summit’s top runner, Hudson Zwhalen, could give Westermann a challenge for individual honors. Millard is a team that’s gotten progressively better and could be a contender for the team trophy.
On the girls side, Rowland Hall, Parowan and North Summit are the front-runners, with Enterprise, Emery and Manti promising to make the race interesting.
Rowland Hall’s Emily Sundquist is the favorite to win the individual title, but she’ll have to beat the defending 2A champion, South Summit’s Grace Schulz.
In 1A, Monticello’s boys team looks poised to defend last year’s 1A title. They return five members of last year’s state championship team, and they run well together, which makes them tough to beat.
Individually, Panguitch’s Kyler Norris and Milford’s Ethan Young return and should battle for the 1A individual title.
On the girls side, Panguitch’s Whitney Orton dominated as a freshman, including a victory at last year’s state meet where she competed as a freshman. She leads a strong group of runners, and the Bobcats look like the favorites in the girls race.
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