Nate Jewkes knew beating Skyline's Stephen Clark would be nearly impossible. So he focused on a simpler and much more attainable objective during the 5A cross country meet staying competitive with the long-distance star.
"My goal was to try to keep him in sight as long as possible," Jewkes said. "Try to stay up with him and finish in second."
The Bingham senior stayed within striking distance just long enough to finish 27.8 seconds behind Clark and earn that second-place finish in the boys three-mile race at Sugarhouse Park.
Jewkes' high finish, along with top 50 finishes from Sean Bullock, Jason Sara and Andrew Unker, helped catapult the Bingham boys team to fourth-place overall trailing only Davis, American Fork and Skyline in the final point tally.
It brought a happy ending to an unusually turbulent season for the Miners. Team captain Logan Clark stunned his teammates and coaches earlier in the fall by quitting the program. It was a loss that could have disrupted chemistry and made the wheels come off before season's end.
But the remaining runners on both the boys and girls side rallied together and put forth impressive performances at the Region 3 meet and again a week later at the state meet.
Bingham coach Jeff Arbogast was pleased with the effort his runners showed, feeling like they collectively put together the best possible races for themselves on that day.
"The kids that ran (at state) were the best Bingham team that's run all year long," Arbogast said. "We finished up with the best Bingham team that could have run."
The end result could be even better for the Miners come next fall. Bingham will lose a lot of seniors but should be able to draw from a deep pool of talented runners to reload quickly.
Sara and fellow junior Rebecca Barnes both top-50 finishers at state will likely anchor their respective teams. Juniors Ashlynn Brewer and Danika Antczak also return and will look to build on their top 10 Region 3 finishes. For the boys, Jeff Hymas and Matt Lebaron will be counted on to fill the void created by the departures of seniors Jewkes, Bullock and Unker.
Add an untested but promising junior varsity group into the mix, and it seems like a recipe for success. Jewkes, for one, is confident Bingham won't take a step back in 2008.
"We have a really deep team," Jewkes said. "A lot of good runners."
Arbogast hopes his younger runners can build on the program's strong tradition of cross country success. Repeating as boys and girls Region 3 champions won't be easy. Region rivals like West Jordan and Copper Hills are also returning several strong runners.
For the Miners, it will come down to how well they train for the upcoming season."It will come down to summer preparation and the consistency of their summer preparation," Arbogast said. "If they prepare as Bingham teams should prepare, then we're in the hunt. If we don't prepare the Bingham way, then we're going to be an also-ran. That's the way it's going to be."