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Bruce Smith
The Maple Mountain team combined for the best time in the girls competition.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Grass Relays high school cross-country race has been around for many years, but it still had a new feeling Saturday at Westlake High School.

Westlake coach Mike Felix inherited the race in 2016 from American Fork’s Timo Mostert, who was recently named the boys cross-country coach of the year by the National High School Coaches Association.

Felix used to run for Mostert at American Fork and said that for many Wasatch Front schools, this race was their season-opener. The event attracted about 1,800 kids from 43 schools and, not surprisingly, gave him plenty of headaches along the way

“He (Mostert) just felt overwhelmed,” Felix said. “Fortunately, I had a lot of help.”

The event consisted of five two-mile relay races for boys and girls, finally ending with the girls and boys varsity teams. It followed a grass route along the campuses of Westlake and its neighboring middle school. Felix also continued American Fork’s tradition by setting up a series of hay bales at various points that the athletes had to jump over along the way.

“I got the hay from a former teammate down in Spanish Fork,” Felix said. “It kind of added to what we want this race to become.”

Even with the obstructions, the outcome didn’t have that many surprises. Maple Mountain finished with the girls best overall time, and Springville won the boys crown. Ryan Raff of Lehi had the best time of the day at 9 minutes, 44 seconds. North Summit’s Allie Boyer topped the girls at 11:47, easily outdistancing the second-fastest runner.

Most importantly, though, the meet started what will likely be a season-long competition between Springville and American Fork, which have taken their Utah County rivalry to a new level and are considered among the top teams in the nation.

“Our focus is to do our best,” said Springville assistant coach Valerie Bodily. “We’ve been working hard all summer — since about a week after school ended last spring — and our goal is to be No. 1.

“This race was shorter, and a good way to start the season,” she added. “It didn’t have the stress of the later meets and was a lot of fun.”

One athlete — from Bingham — even used the post-meet awards ceremony as a creative way to ask a teammate to be his date at their upcoming homecoming dance.

Grass Relays

At Westlake High School

Saturday’s results

Varsity

BOYS

1, Springville; 2, American Fork; 3, Westlake; 4, Olympus; 5, Lone Peak; 6, Bingham; 7, Bonneville; 8, Riverton; 9, Skyridge; 10, Woods Cross

GIRLS

1, Maple Mountain; 2, American Fork; 3, Pleasant Grove; 4, Skyline; 5, Olympus; 6, Springville; 7, Lone Peak; 8, Corner Canyon; 9, Westlake; 10, Riverton

Bruce Smith grew up in Boise and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high school sports articles for the Deseret News.