I just knew that I worked hard and we’ll have to see what happens. I worked way too dang hard all year to lose that race in the final 100 meters. —1A cross country winner Easton Nielson
SALT LAKE CITY — For the second-straight year, the Monticello Buckaroos were crowned 1A boys cross-country state champions, with the Panguitch Bobcats finishing comfortably behind them in second place Wednesday afternoon.
Monticello senior runner Easton Nielson led the charging pack of runners around the bend and pulled away from second-place finisher Ethan Young (Milford) to capture the boys individual title.
“I knew that coming in here, one of the Norris brothers (of Panguitch) had a really good shot (at winning), so I knew I was going to have to run with (Keldon Norris),” said Nielson. “I was with him pretty dang far, and I just knew I was going to give it everything I had. I knew if they beat me, they were going to have to run a great race, and I would have been at peace with it.”
Nielson finished 18 seconds ahead of second-place Young and 37 seconds ahead of fifth-place Norris to secure the first individual state title of his three-year career at Monticello.
“I just knew that I worked hard and we’ll have to see what happens. I worked way too dang hard all year to lose that race in the final 100 meters,” Nielson added.
Nielson’s hard work paid off, and so did the hard work of his teammates, as all seven of the Monticello runners finished in the top 16 to easily take home first place. Second-place Panguitch had five runners place in the top 25.
Monument Valley’s Ki-Jana Martinez finished 26 seconds behind Nielson to earn third place, while Bryce Valley’s Adam Platt finished just seven seconds later and four seconds before Norris to secure fourth place.
Both Norris and teammate Connor Anderson finished in the top six to lead Panguitch, while Monticello had three runners place in the top 10.
Bryce Valley came in third place with five top-30 finishers, followed by Altamont (two top-30 finishers) and St. Joseph (three top-30 finishers) to round out the top five teams.
In the 1A girls state championship, Panguitch and Monticello reversed roles. Panguitch picked up a second-consecutive state title, with sophomore Whittni Orton and junior Catania Holman leading the Bobcats' charge.
Orton claimed a second-consecutive individual title, 18 seconds ahead of second-place Holman.
It then took nearly 60 seconds before the rest of the field started pouring across the finish line at Highland High School.
St. Joseph freshman Meghan Clare finished a split second ahead of Wayne junior Hannah Ellett for third place. Clare was the lone athlete at the state tournament representing the Jayhawks’ girls cross-country team.
Panguitch claimed the title in overwhelming fashion, as all seven girls finished in the top 22 spots Wednesday.
Monticello secured a second-place finish — just seven points ahead of Wayne. Junior Bailey Goodwine and freshman Kendal Harris both had top-10 finishes for the Buckaroos.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sports reporter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724