The state's elite prep cross country runners have been hitting the pavement, concrete, grass, dirt, mud and pretty much any other surface you can think of in hopes of running fast at the state cross country championships on Oct. 22.
They've already put in a ton of mileage over the past several months and in some ways have already completed a good chunk of the work required to be successful. In many other ways, however, they all realize that much work and much refinement remains in front of them before they're ready for state.
With a month-and-a-half to go, here's a brief look at how each classification is stacking up:
If Davis' girls team can get healthy and stay healthy and that's a huge if the Darts could be on the verge of a very special season.
Successfully defending its region and state championships is at the top of Davis' list of goals, as coach Corbin Talley pointed out. However, he also quickly noted that considering his girls team was ranked 16th nationally by Harrier back in the preseason, the potential is there to accomplish some even loftier things by the end of this fall.
Davis' fab-five runners Sr. Candace Eddy, Sr. Katie Swanson, Jr. Emily Hansen, So. Meghan Hedquist and Sr. Julianne Wirthlin are simply outstanding and have the potential to lead the Darts to glory this season both in state and in national competitions.
Individually, Skyline senior Shalaya Kipp is the favorite to win on the girls side.
On the boys side, Alta beat American Fork last weekend in Heber City and is the 5A favorite right now, ahead of American Fork and Davis.
All three of those teams could claim the top prize next month, and we should get an even better idea of where they stack up after Alta and Davis square off this Friday at the Murray Invitational.
Senior Jonathan Nelson and his Timpview T-Birds should lead the way in Class 4A.
Nelson won individually and led his teammates to a team title in 2007, and there's no reason to think he and his teammates can't claim top honors again this fall.
Nelson and Co. certainly stated their intentions by winning the 31-team BYU Invitational last weekend. In addition to a first-place performance by Nelson, Raphael Devonas and Nathan Fletcher finished eighth and 10th to boost the T-Birds at that meet.
The other major team performance at the BYU invite came from Mountain Crest on the girls side. The Mustangs raced extremely fast to beat out highly regarded Davis, even if the Darts were missing one of their stars (Eddy).
That performance probably puts Mountain Crest atop the list of 4A favorites right now, with Mountain View, last year's champ, projected to finish second.
Park City's five-year reign as 3A girls cross country champs came to a screeching halt last fall, but the Miners have demonstrated so far that they have every intention of winning that trophy back.
Park City got five solid finishes from its varsity runners to post a third-place finish at last weekend's BYU invite, and many within 3A feel they'll probably be the team to beat. That doesn't mean others won't be gunning for them, however, including defending champ Cedar and Ogden.
Cedar will be paced by talented sophomore Aubrey Bryson, as well as Hannah Elsworth and Brakel Yardley, while Ogden features Sarah Callister and Chloe Calton.
Meanwhile, Ogden aims to defend its 3A title on the boys side. The Tigers brought back everyone from last year's championship-winning team, which included three stars (Franco Montes, Jacob Barton and Manuel Luna) and two emerging talents (Devin Gilbert and Jose Zamora).
Expect Ogden to be very solid in the team competition, while the boys individual title will be up for grabs for the first time in years because of the graduation of Judge megastar Luke Puskedra.
Hopes are high for the continued success of Parowan's boys team this fall. The Rams edged Richfield and Juab to the 2A title last season, and with senior Tyler Robinson (4th in 3A last year) back, in addition to a decent supporting cast, one would think Parowan will be capable of contending again.
On the girls side, Millard and North Sevier engaged in an extremely tight battle last fall, and it will be interesting to see whether those teams are in the mix again this fall.
There are actually a number of talented runners scattered throughout 1A, but it all starts with St. Joseph and its set of tremendously talented athletes.
St. Joseph won the 1A boys and girls championships a season ago, and if the Jayhawks stay healthy, they'll probably win both again this year.
St. Joseph's boys team, winner of seven of the last nine 1A titles, is already a full-blown dynasty, while the girls team, winner of three of the last six 1A titles, has the potential to become one.
Three terrific freshmen, Andrea Chavez, Tauna DeHaan and Alex Shaw finished 2-3-4 at last year's state meet and will lead the way for St. Joseph's girls team for the next three years. What will really frighten the rest of 1A, however, is the fact that the Jayhawks have a number of capable runners behind the three stars, including junior Erin Trout.
Expect the three sophomore stars to vie for individual honors against Monticello sophomore Macee Nielson, who beat the trio to the individual title a season ago.On the boys side, Clay Ahlf, Travis Mizraoff, Daniel Philpot and Ben Cilwick will lead St. Joseph.
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