Macee Nielson once kept her father from seeing the high school cross country team he'd coached win a state championship.
"His team took state the day I was born, and he missed it because he was with me," said the Monticello freshman after she won her first state title with a time of 19:03.7. "I told him I'd give him a state championship back."
The 14-year-old, born Oct. 27, 1992, did just that on Wednesday morning running through wet and cold conditions at the 1A cross country state championship meet at Sugarhouse Park.
When asked what he thought of the way his daughter had kept her commitment to repay him, his emotions got the better of him for just a moment.
"It was pretty cool," said R.T. Nielson, tears welling in his eyes. Adds his wife, LeaAnn Nielson, "It's like it came full circle."
The Nielsons said Macee started running in seventh grade, but she has had so much success in her freshman season it's no longer just a hobby.
"We started to think she's got a little bit of ability," said her dad after listing her accomplishments which included setting four course records and winning seven out of 10 races. "She's been playing softball, but she'll probably switch and do track now."
Nielson finished almost a minute faster than second-place finisher Andrea Chavez of St. Joseph, who crossed the finish line almost simultaneously with teammate Tauna DeHaan. St. Joseph's Alex Shaw was 16 seconds behind them ensuring the Jayhawks earned the team title in the event.
About 30 minutes later, the St. Joseph boys team, led by Junior Clay Ahlf, who finished in 17:32.4, would capture the 1A boys cross country championship as well.
"It's our goal to run as a team," said coach Lisa Reed as she congratulated the tired but excited runners. "It's our biggest thing, to compete as a team, to run as a team."
The Jayhawk squad has no seniors and just one junior on the girls side, and just two senior boys. In addition to Chavez, Shaw and DeHaan, Carissa Bauer, Melissa Frogh, Michelle Howe and Erin Trout make up the girls team, while Ahlf, Kyler DeHaan, Daniel Philpot, Dylan Garcia, Ben Cilwick, Brandon Voet and Chris Philpot make up the boys team. In addition to Reed, Javier Chavez also helps coach the squad, which practices in the morning to accommodate the other sports played by the athletes.
"We're a team all the way," said Kyler DeHaan, a senior. Although, Daniel Philpot adds, "We're competitive with each other."
While most runners want individual accolades, Garcia said the team feels "like the most important part of this is to run with the team."
Cilwick said that while the Jayhawks haven't been state champions for a few years, their excellence "is tradition. It feels like this is what we were supposed to do."
Wasatch Academy junior Elijah Rono won the boys state championship with a time of 16:19.1. The native of Kenya, who is in his third year at Wasatch Academy, said the weather affected his time a little.
"I don't like it," he said with a slight smile. "I was slower."Panguitch junior Trac Norris finished second with a time of 16:22.3. Piute took second place in the boys competition, while Milford was second in the girls race.