For Piute High School, a second-place finish in the state 1A cross country championships was considered a triumph.

On a cold, rainy day, the Thunderbird harriers stuck together for the most part as Dallas Sylvester, Ryan Gallacher and Kyle Richards finished 16th, 17th and 18th, respectively. A few seconds earlier, Skylar Steed crossed the finish line for a ninth-place finish. Freshman Kelton Price was a little bit further down at 32nd, but coach Steve Hoagland said, "We needed that fifth runner."

It was a total team effort and Piute should be commended for a strong showing. The Thunderbirds placed only third in Region 15 behind Milford and Panguitch — who both came in well behind them at state.

"We tried to get them to be tough," Hoagland said.

The coach said he didn't know if the weather had anything to do with the other teams' performance or not. But, he added, "We had a goal to accomplish, and they toughened up when it mattered."

As far as training goes, all the boys play baseball, but Hoagland tries to get in running practice as much as he can. He also mentioned, "We try to peak for region and state."

Students trickle into Piute from five small towns, one of which is Marysvale where Steed lives. Dairy farming evidently keeps him in shape as he spends his summers working on his grandfather's farm.

His sport of choice is basketball, and he runs cross country only to transition from baseball to basketball and stay in shape.

"It keeps my coach happy," he said, referring to Hoagland who doubles as the school's basketball coach.

The coach said his kids are competitive.

Added Steed: "We knew we had the ability."

Ability abounds in the classroom also. Seniors Steed and Sylvester were named academic all-state as were team members Quincy Newby and Chance Dalton. Those four will be gone from next year's team, but Gallacher and Richards are sophomores who will return with Price and another freshman, Ben Bagley.

Next year the Thunderbirds will aim high again and try to capture a state title, which they last won in 2004.