Springville High cross country coach Sam Smith marvels not just at how the distance-running talent and depth have grown in the state over the years, but also just at the popularity of the sport.
“I graduated from Timpview 11 years ago,” she said. “And just seeing how it’s changed in Utah over the past 10 years, it’s crazy. Not only are the teams a lot bigger There were nine girls total on my high school team, and now we have teams that have 90 kids combined boys and girls. The depth is a lot more, but the talent has also increased.”
She wonders if her times, which allowed her to place in high school, would even qualify for this week’s state meet.
“It’s fun, but it’s really different,” she said of the sport.
This Wednesday’s state championship meet will be historic in that it will be the first time teams will compete in six classifications.
While Davis and American Fork have battled for the top spot most seasons, this year appears to be different.
“I think 6A is wide open,” said American Fork head coach Timo Mostert, who guided his boys team to a dominating 5A title and second-place national finish last season. “It’s going to be tight.”
And by tight, he means competitive.
While Lone Peak might have the edge, Mostert said Davis, American Fork, Herriman, Riverton and Westlake could all contend for the championship trophy.
Fremont’s Bronson Winter earned the state’s fastest time in competition with a personal best of 14:58.9. He ran that time en route to a Region 1 championship, edging his teammate, Zack Winter, by less than a second.
For defending 5A champion American Fork, Dalton Brems earned the team’s fastest time of the season with a 15:10 on Sept. 22.
Seth Stromberg and Conner Jones give the Davis boys team a strong duo, while Nick Burrell leads the way for Herriman and laid down the team’s fastest time of the season. Riverton’s Ty Davis and Joey Nokes went 1-2 in the Region 3 boys race, and the Silverwolves’ team finished second.
“There are a lot of high-quality programs,” Mostert said. “And whoever wins, it will be a first for 6A.”
In the girls’ race, Mica Rivera led Herriman to a Region 3 championship with an individual victory, while nationally-ranked Lone Peak, American Fork, Davis and Pleasant Grove are the top contenders for the team title.
Individually, McKenna Lee of Weber, Lexi Wright of American Fork, Haley Tanne of Pleasant Grove, Abby Jensen of Westlake and Eliza Arrington and Reagan Gardiner, both of Lone Peak, recorded some of the season’s best times.
Springville enters Wednesday’s meet as the favorite after beating Timpanogos for the Region 8 boys championship. Both teams are nationally ranked in more than one poll.
Among the best individuals are Springville’s Grant Gardner and Brandon Garnica; Timpanogos’ Brennan Benson and Ben Berlin; Timpview High’s Aidan Troutner, who won the Region 7 title; and Olympus’ Jima Rout.
For the girls, Springville, Maple Mountain, Skyline and Timpanogos will be fighting for the 5A title. Individually, freshman Heidi Sumsion is the favorite with a personal best of 17:04.4. Her older sister, Julie, won the 4A state championship last season in her senior campaign. Skyline’s Camille Winterton, Woods Cross’ Carlee Hansen, Springville’s AnnaBeth Templeman, Corner Canyon’s Karli Branch, Olympus’ Katie Duckworth, Maple Mountain’s Tess McInelly and Wasatch’s Abby West are among the top competitors.
If the Region 9 championships are an indication of what’s to come, the 4A race should be a thriller.
Desert Hills, Pine View and Hurricane are the top teams, with the season’s best time coming from Ryan Raff, who earned a 14:23.7 at the BYU Autumn Classic.
Hurricane’s Caleb Armstrong ran the classification’s second-fastest time of the year, a 14:35.1 in the Region 9 championships.
That personal best gave Armstrong the region title over Jensen Lambert of Cedar, who also ran a PR of 14:54.0, and Joshua Armstrong of Hurricane, who ran a personal-best time of 15:09.8.
Desert Hills’ Bailey Brinkerhoff won the Region 9 girls’ title, edging Harley Taylor of Cedar by just three-tenths of a second.
Ogden’s Kalii Caldwell won the Region 11 girls championship, besting Stansbury’s Zoe Hales by nearly 50 seconds. On the boys side, Ogden teammates Andrew Blackham and Christian Warren took first and second, respectively, in Region 11, and they were separated by just two seconds.
Spanish Fork’s Wyatt Evans won the Region 10 title with a 15:33.8.
In the 3A boys classification, Grantsville, Morgan, Providence Hall, Juab, Grand and Richfield could contend for a title.
Ryan Lewis of Grand laid down the classification’s fastest time of the season (16:08.8), followed by Grantsville’s Porter Whitworth, who ran a 16:10.8. Nick Woolsey of Richfield, Seth Beckett of Grantsville, Morgan’s Carson Wilkins, Providence Hall’s Nolan Beck, and Juab’s Tyler Dinkel are all capable of championship performances.
On the girls side, Richfield, Grand, Carbon, Union, Juab, Judge and Grantsville are all capable of title performances. Kennedy Powell, a senior from Union and 2015 XC state champion, has the classification's fastest time - 18:06, while Grand freshman Kylah Ricks (19:00) and Juab sophomore LorraLyn Bronson (19:08) have two of the other top times in the state.
On Oct. 4, Judge runners Allison Ryan, Madi Tartaro and Isabella Jones each ran personal bests and some of the fastest times of the season in their classification.
North Summit’s Sadie Sargent is the defending champ and a heavy favorite to repeat this season. She’s not only earned the fastest time of the season in her classification, a 17:17.3 performance in the BYU Autumn Classic, but she’s also been winning meets loaded with runners from 4A, 5A and 6A schools.
Her teammate, Maggie Zwahlen, helps make the Braves’ girls team one of those favored in the team title race. Wasatch Academy, North Sevier and Millard could all be in the mix as well.
Individually, Tate Beasley of Rowland Hall, Sheilah Cheruiyot and Ashley Lagat of Wasatch Academy, Mayci Torgerson of North Sevier and Katy Kelly of Millard, will compete for those top spots.
On the boys side, Carson Burian of Rowland Hall owns the season’s fastest time, but he’ll get plenty of competition from North Summit’s Cody White, Millard’s Jarren Camp, Altamont’s Carson Belnap, Parowan’s Hunter Lorenz and North Summit’s Gideon Green.
North Summit is the heavy favorite to win the boys title, with Rowland Hall, Millard and Parowan in the mix.
The Monticello and Panguitch boys have recorded some of the fastest times this season, and that promises to make Wednesday’s race exciting. Telos Academy, Rich and Tintic could also be in the mix.
Monticello’s Adam Bunker, Hyrum Johnson and Ryan Bird, along with Panguitch’s Porter Schoppe, Luke Reeder and Bosten Englestead, are among the top individuals. Telos Academy’s Aiden Dorf, Tintic’s Curtis Evans and Manila’s Ethan Clegg are some of the top individuals.
On the girls side, Panguitch’s Taylia Norris, Monticello’s Madison Freestone and Milford’s Kinley Spaulding are among the top runners.
Parowan edged Panguitch for last year’s 1A girls title, while Panguitch boys beat out the Parowan boys for the state championship.