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Corbin Talley
FILE — Davis and American Fork cross country teams qualified for Nationals at the Southwest regionals in 2011.
Both individually and team-wise, I think it’s going to be a really competitive year. We have some of the best runners in the country. —Corbin Talley, Davis High cross country coach

Cross-country running in Utah just gets better and better.

Or, more accurately, faster and faster.

Last year, local runners broke state records and represented Utah well at regional and national events. This year is already promising some great battles between talented individuals and powerhouse teams.

“Both individually and team-wise, I think it’s going to be a really competitive year,” said Davis head coach Corbin Talley, whose girls team is looking to defend its 5A state title. “We have some of the best runners in the country.”

The Davis girls team is ranked 22 nationally and fourth regionally with American Fork just behind at 24 and fifth regionally. In all, five Utah girls teams are ranked nationally and six are ranked regionally — Mtn. Crest (38th nationally, 7th regionally); Ogden (39th nationally, 8th regionally); Park City (57th nationally, 11th regionally); and Lehi (ranked 15th regionally).

Individually, the top runners are Ogden’s Sarah Feeny, who won the Highland Invitational with a time of 16:53, and Herriman’s Lucy Biles, who was second at that meet with a time of 17:33.1.

As evidence of how talented this year’s runners are, Talley points out that Bingham has already proved to be a contender in 5A, and it isn't ranked nationally or regionally.

“Our girls started off really strong at the Highland Invitational on Aug. 22,” said Talley. “We won that. But Bingham girls looked really good, and they were second at Highland and won the (American Fork) grass relays. They’re kind of the surprise teams.”

In addition to Feeny and Biles, Davis’ Hannah Albrechtsen and Taylor Cox, as well as Jordan’s Tavia Dutson, Bingham’s Marlee Mitchell and freshman Whitney Rich, as well as Timpanogos’ Mary Christensen, Park City’s Alyssa Snyder and Maddie Chriscione, Box Elder’s Hannah Malone and Riverton’s McKayla Morgan have all started the season as some of the state’s top runners.

On the boys side, American Fork is again the team to beat. The Cavemen are ranked No. 3 nationally and could compete for a national title with a deep, hard-working team. They won their fourth straight regional championship last season and followed that with a second-place finish at nationals. The boys team has been undefeated in the regular season the last four years.

Still, American Fork head coach Timo Mostert isn't making any promises this early in the season.

“I don’t know if the teams are as fast as last year’s teams, but there are a slew of really fast individuals,” said Mostert. “The teams might be a bit slower, right now we’re a bit slower, but I see a lot more individuals going really fast this year.” In addition to American Fork, six other local teams are ranked both regionally and nationally by Dyestat.com — Riverton (ranked 3rd regionally, 46th nationally; Ogden (ranked 4th regionally, 63rd nationally); Davis (ranked 5th regionally, 65th nationally); Lone Peak (ranked 7th regionally, 90th nationally); Bingham (ranked 8th regionally, 106th nationally); and Westlake (ranked 10th regionally and 119th nationally).

“We have four nationally ranked boys team in our region alone,” said Mostert. “It’s the region of death. … And remember only the top four go to state.”

The team times may be lagging a bit on the clock right now, Mostert said, because it’s the “hottest summer on record.”

The Cavemen are again led by third team All American Connor McMillan, followed closely by Zac Jacklin and Tyler Bell. They won the grass relays and this week’s pre-region meet at Westlake. McMillan and Jacklin finished 1-and-2 with Lone Peak’s Clayson Shumway third.

“I think teams are learning how to work harder in the summer, but you can’t run as fast when it’s hot out,” he said. “As it cools off, you’ll see a lot of boys run faster. It’s going to be crazy fast at the state meet.”

Talley agrees that the depth on the boys side is phenomenal.

“I don’t know if we’ve had a year that’s been this deep for Utah,” he said, “5A is just ridiculous.”

On the boys side, there are also some spectacular talents, in addition to McMillan, Jacklin and Shumway, including, Kramer Morton, Alta, who won the Highland Invitational in 14:48.5; Conner Mantz, Sky View, who was second with a time of 14:49; Brady Earley, Riverton; Andrew Brewer, Bingham; Rory Linkletter, Herriman; Mike Buckley, Ogden; Skylar Williams, Davis; Caleb Walker, Bingham; Bryson Walker, Bingham; Adam Haynes, Bingham; Austin Brower, Westlake; and Trevor Gibby, Westlake.

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