A couple of thousand high school runners will battle each other in two cross country meets in the Murray area Saturday morning.

The biggest competition, however, may have already taken place.That happened when Cottonwood High coach Ed Murrell created his own meet to go head-to-head with the prestigious Murray Invitational, one of Utah's most tradition-filled events.

Murrell and a few other coaches were less than pleased with last year's Murray Invitational, which had almost 1,800 runners from 57 high schools.

"Murray got too big," Murrell said. "And I thought if I was going to complain about their meet I should offer an alternative. My goal is to put on a good meet."

He attracted some of the state's top teams away from Murray for the inaugural Cottonwood Invitational. Bingham, which has nationally ranked boys and girls teams, is the strongest in the field that also includes Alta, Davis, Judge, Kearns, Layton, 14th-ranked Rock Springs, Wyo., and the host Colts. Races begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Cottonwood High course, which Murrell describes as being "flat and fast."

The Murray Invitational will still be one of the state's mammoth cross country events in the regular season.

Mountain View's nationally ranked teams, coming off impressive wins at the Oregon Trail Meet last week, and national power Mountain Crest highlight the list of about 30 full teams who'll compete. The states' top individual runner, Provo's Josh Rohatinsky, will also be there.

"It's considered to be the granddaddy race of cross-country races," said Murray coach Patrick Clifford. He also defended his race and the course.

"I don't think there were too many runners," he added. "The thing that made it tough last year was the rain. The rain threw us a curve."

Clifford expects there will be well over 1,000 runners on the three-mile course that goes up Murray Park's hills, on a horse-racing track and on the road. The girls varsity race begins at 10:30 a.m., followed by the boys varsity at 11.