It hasn't been difficult during this high school track season to determine that a Viewmont runner will probably win the boys' distance races. The only question is which Viewmont runner will be the first to cross the finish line.

Teammates Mark Johansen and Ryan Anderson, both seniors at Viewmont, have been battling for first-place honors in the 1600- and 3200-meter runs all season. For them it's a fun, but extremely competitive, situation. For Viewmont it means almost automatic first- and second-place points at every meet. Although Coach Lynn Dubois has been blessed with talented runners in the past, he can't recall having had such a strong duo."I can't remember a one-two punch like this in Utah ever. I expected that they would be very good, and in time we will be able to tell if they dominate. They're just great, hard-working kids," said Dubois, a 20-year coaching veteran.

"It's getting to the point where I expect them to be first and second, although there are people that can beat them any day. One week Ryan wins and they think he dominates, but then the next week Mark will beat him."

The cross-country season gave the Viking coach an indication of what the track season would offer. Johansen finished first and Anderson third while leading their team to a second-place finish at the 4A state meet this past fall. The previous year, as juniors, they led Viewmont to the state cross-country championship.

Johansen and Anderson are teammates and friends. But they are also opponents. More often than not it is these two that are neck and neck at the finish line. There are a few runners in the state, such as Timpview's Dave Spence and East's Brian Schiefer, that can ruin the Viewmont sweep. But having not just one, but two top runners, gives the Vikings an added bonus. In Viewmont's win at the Davis Invitational, the two combined for 44 of the Viking's 97 points, making the Vikes one of the favorites to win the state championship.

It was at the Davis meet that both runners broke the 4:20 1600-meter barrier - Johansen's time of 4:19.36 just edging Anderson's 4:19.77. Dubois thinks they can challenge the state 1600-meter mark of 4:15.01 set by Viewmont's Alan Parker in 1982.

Anderson is the faster of the two - he runs a 400 meter leg on the team's state-qualifying 1600-meter relay team. Johansen relies more on his strength than his speed.

So far this season, the two have won the 1600- and 3200-meter runs in almost every major invitational. At Weber State College, where the first invitational of the season was held, Johansen won the 3200 meters while Anderson was second in the 1600 meters. Anderson slipped past Johansen in the 3200 meters at the Coaches' Invitational at East High, where he also won the 800-meter event. Johansen, though, came back strong at the Davis Invitational, winning both the 1600 and 3200 meter runs, setting a state 3200-meter record in the process (9:21.6 breaking the old mark of 9:21.92 set by Weber High's Matt Godfrey last year). Anderson was right on his heels, though, and could possibly break the new record.

"It's a war when they get on the track. They go after each other," Dubois said. "You just have to cross your fingers that it doesn't effect their relationship and friendship. So far they've handled it pretty well."

It hasn't hurt their performances. In fact, says Johansen, having your top competition as a teammate is good. Anderson agrees.

"I don't think we would be as strong as we are if not for each other," he explained.

"You always know what the other person can do, and you always remember that they're there," added Johansen. "You always push each other to improve."

These two runners probably won't face each other again until the Region Four meet and then, for possibly the final time, at the state meet May 19-20 at Brigham Young University. Rest assured that it will probably be a Viewmont runner to cross the finish line first when it comes to the distance races. Which one? Well, that isn't as easy to predict.