Based on how she performed in her last two races, Riverton runner Alisa Sheffer had a good feeling coming into the Region 3 cross country championship. Sheffer had scored top 10 finishes at the Kiwanis Invitational and at the Wasatch Rendezvous.
By the time she lined up to dash up and down the grassy hills at Cottonwood Regional Park, the Silverwolves senior had total confidence she could top the rest of the field.
"Like the last two races, I kind of made my breakthrough," Sheffer said. "I knew I could. That's what got me to do it. It was my head."
Sheffer continued her ascent by finishing in 19 minutes, 40 seconds to claim her first region title Monday afternoon. She crossed the finish line well ahead of runner-up Emily Wells of West Jordan, who finished in 20 minutes flat.
Sheffer's winning time equaled her personal record. It also instantly vaulted the senior into the select group of title contenders for next week's state meet at Sugar House Park.
Earning a region title was exactly the sort of payoff she was looking for after putting in four years of hard work. Sheffer feels confident it doesn't have to be the only trophy she collects. She is aiming for another state title and an even better personal record.
"I know I can do it," Sheffer said. "I've been doing it all year long. Why stop here, you know? I'll keep going at it. Reach my peak."
Bingham senior Nate Jewkes was the top finisher in the boys race, edging out Riverton's Trevor Sharp with a winning time of 16 minutes, six seconds. Sharp finished second with a time of 16 minutes, 22 seconds.
For Jewkes, it was also his first region title. He had hoped to eclipse his personal record of 15:45 on Monday but was satisfied with getting the victory. Jewkes also came close to winning last year, finishing second to teammate Ryan Barrus last fall his first year with the team after moving to Utah from Virginia.
His time with the Miners has helped him develop into one of the state's best. But it was anything but easy at first when he had to get used to running at elevation rather than near sea level.
"I could definitely feel the difference for a couple of weeks before I got used to it," Jewkes said.
Now Jewkes' goal is to build on his region title and close the gap between him and the 5A title favorite everyone is gunning for Skyline's Stephen Clark.
"He's really strong and he's got a good kick," Jewkes said. "If I can take it out first early, maybe I can hold on and hold him off."
Bingham took home team titles in the boys and girls races by virtue of having the most top 10 finishers. The top finisher on the girls side for the Miners was Sarah Copeland, a senior who has been part of the team for only a year.
Copeland felt equally surprised and excited by her fourth-place finish. She has spent the year among the top five in the girls races, but came into the region meet in a bit of a personal slump.
"We've all finished a race first and so we're all about the same speed," Copeland said. "But lately, I haven't been up at the top. So I was expecting one of the other girls to finish first."
Other top 10 finishers on the girls side included Danika Antczak, McKenzie Moore, Rebecca Barnes and Ashlynn Brewer from Bingham; Anna Willis and Katie Buttars from West Jordan; and Clarissa Rawlins from Copper Hills.
On the boys side, other top 10 finishers were Kearns runners Josh Shrewsberry and Tanner Smedley; Copper Hills' Bryce Woolsley and JohnColes; Bingham's Jason Sara and Sean Bullock; and West Jordan's Jeff Walker and Caldy Buhler.