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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Conner Mantz talks to the media after placing second in the Murray Invitational cross-country meet at Murray Park in Murray on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.
I just love the atmosphere. Everyone who does this is literally the neatest kids. I could not ask for a better group of people. —Kramer Morton

MURRAY — Kramer Morton sprinted past Conner Mantz on the last incline, just a few hundred meters from the finish line.

After winning the Murray Invitational 5K Friday afternoon, the Alta senior looked for a high-five from Mantz, a senior from Sky View, as they made their way through the finish chute and attempted to catch their breath.

“Everybody here is unbelievable,” said Morton, who won the race with a time of 15:18.1, while Mantz was second with a time of 15:20.1. “It’s an honor to be racing with them. I can’t even express my gratitude to these guys. … Connor Mantz, we’re best friends; we literally run as teammates. He’s like a brother to me. All of these guys, I love all of these guys.”

And no one understands — or appreciates — how competition helps runners improve more than the guys who finished behind Morton.

“When you feel like you’re hurting, and you have somebody ahead of you by 50 meters, it’s pretty great,” said Mantz.

Morton said the talented competition and great coaching have him running faster in the first few meets of this season than he did all of last year.

“I’m already faster than my fastest time,” he said. “So it’s been really good — a lot of fun.”

Competing against the state’s best pushes these talented runners to new heights. But despite their intense battles on the courses throughout the state, the runners respect and like each other immensely.

“I just love the atmosphere,” said Morton of the student-athletes he races against. “Everyone who does this is literally the neatest kids. I could not ask for a better group of people.”

In the boys team competition, Ogden edged Davis, 105-107. The Tigers were led by Mike Buckley’s 15:30.1 (fourth place), while the Darts were led by Skylar Williams’ 15:49.7 (seventh place).

Mountain View’s Sam Sorensen was third with a time of 15:30.1. More than 2,200 runners participated in the 3.2-mile races that began with novice runners, included junior varsity athletes and finished with varsity runners. Complete results for the meet are available at runnercard.com.

On the girls side, Ogden’s Sarah Feeny won the varsity race with a time of 17:41.6, even though she didn’t feel great coming into Friday’s race.

“Waiting over there for the race to start, it was just hot, and I didn’t feel ready to race,” she said. “The heat and the lack of sleep — I was just really tired.”

But just as the girls varsity race began, clouds rolled across the sky, lowering the temperatures just a bit and bringing along a cool but blustery headwind.

“I didn’t notice the heat in my race,” said Feeny. “I was really grateful for that.”

Cedar’s Aimee Bryson was second with a time of 17:56.9, while Hannah Malone of Box Elder was third, finishing in 17:59.5.

The Davis girls edged Park City 65-90 for the team title. The Darts were led by freshman Aubrey Argyle, who finished in 18:05.9 (sixth place), while the Miners were led by McKenzie Bothner, who was fifth with a time of 18:04.8.

Feeny said she began running at age 9 in the Ogden track club.

“After the first year, I said, ‘I’m not doing that again.' It was hard,” she said smiling. “But then my coached convinced me to do it again, and I really learned to love it.”

Being one of the state’s top runners means a little more pressure, but she said she tries to focus on what she does best.

“I feel like I have some pressure, but I also feel like if I run my race, that I’ve been training to do, I’ll be fine,” she said.

It doesn’t hurt that Ogden has had competitive teams every season since the senior started running.

“We’ve had really good girls the whole time I’ve been at Ogden High and it’s been really fun,” Feeny said. “It’s really helped to have really good friends who are committed to running to train with.”

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