Steve Griffin
Runners sprint through the trees during the girl's varsity race in the Highland Invitational high school x-country race at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. .

It’s almost as if the uniforms contain a bit of magic.

Every year, regardless of whether the runner in the American Fork uniform is a returning Nike National Champion or a newcomer no one has heard of, the American Fork boys team contends for region, state and sometimes national titles.

Last year, the team was allegedly rebuilding, but they captured both the Region 4 title and the 6A state championship. Its only disappointment was finishing fifth at the Nike Southwest Regional Tournament and missing out on competing at Nationals.

The team returns seniors Carson Clinger, Dalton Brems, and Luke Grundvig, who all finished in the top 10 at the state cross country meet last year. Grundvig was named the No. 3 male runner in Utah by Milesplit, while the running website named Brems No. 4.

The other boys teams that should compete with them are Riverton, Herriman, Westlake, and Bingham.

On the girls side, Lone Peak finished third in 6A last season, but it's easily the top girls team in any classification. Milesplit named them the top girls team in the state in its preseason poll, and for good reason. They return all of last year’s varsity team that took third in the 6A cross country meet and fourth at Nike Southwest Regional.

The Knights team is led by senior Ali Bybee, as well as returning sophomore standouts Eliza Arrington, who took second place in the 6A at the state cross country championships, and Reagan Gardner.

Other girls teams that will contend are American Fork, Westlake and Davis.

5A

Finishing ninth in the first meet of the season doesn’t seem like a promising start. But Skyline coach Tom Porter said this early in the season, there are a lot of ways to gauge progress and success.

“I looked at us in ninth, and I thought, ‘We’re in this. We’re in the mix’,” he said. “I look at the times, and there are so many kids that in 30 seconds you can have 100 kids.”

So the runners, who are awarded points for the order of finish, may just be seconds — or fractions of seconds — apart.

The Skyline girls will be in a great position to defend their region and 5A state title as they return Grace Burnett, who was fifth in Friday’s Highland Invitational and 10th at last year’s state meet.

Springville girls will certainly be in the mix for a state title as sophomore Heidi Sumsion returns along with sophomore AnnaBeth Templeman. Corner Canyon, led by Karli Branch, and Maple Mountain will also be in the mix.

Springville’s Grant Gardner was ranked the No. 1 by Milesplit, and most coaches believe he’s the runner with the best shot at earning Utah another Nike National Championship. Gardner didn’t run in the Highland Invitational, but he did beat Nike National cross country Aidan Troutner in the 5A 1600 meters, with a 4:10.9, in track last spring.

The Springville boys look poised to defend their 5A state title, even after losing five of their top seven runners.

Other boys teams to watch are Skyridge, who won the Highland Invitational on Friday, Corner Canyon, Timpanogos and Timpview.

4A

The 4A girls might have some of the best individual runners in the state. Mountain View senior Helena “Mimi” Miyazawa won the Highland Invitational last Friday, and Kalii Caldwell from Ogden was third.

Desert Hills' girls team, like Lone Peak's girls team, return all seven of last year’s varsity runners and earned the No. 2 team preseason nod from Milesplit. Bailey Brinkerhoff returns for her senior season after finishing third last year. Lily Poulton and Trinity Schimbeck return as seniors, and the team adds track standout Samantha Nelson, who was injured last fall.

Lehi’s Anna Martin was named the top female runner in the state — in any classification — by Milesplit. She finished second in last year’s state cross country championships, but she won the 4A titles in the 1600 meter and the 800 meter this spring.

Other girls teams to watch include Pine View, Cedar, Ogden, and Stansbury.

On the boys side, Spanish Fork’s Wyatt Evans was named the No. 2 boys runner in the state, in part because of his 4:13.83 1600 meter race in the 4A state track meet a few months ago. He finished fourth in the state cross country meet last year, and he has a real shot at leading the Dons to a team title, as they return all of last year’s varsity runners.

3A

In the 2017 3A boys cross country championships, Richfield and Emery tied. The title went to Emery when the Spartans’ sixth runner edged the Wildcats’ sixth runner by one placement — a six-second difference.

Both teams could be in the mix again this season as Richfield juniors Hayden Harward and Nick Woolsey, along with Treyson Hansen, return from last year’s team.

Emery returns sophomore Bryar Meccariello, senior McKay Meccariello, junior Griffin Livingston, and senior Chase Christiansen.

Morgan returns its top runner in Carson Wilkins, while Grand returns a pair of promising runners in Evan Ellison and Malachi Ricks.

Grantsville will be in the mix, and they’ll be led by senior Seth Beckett.

On the girls side, San Juan will try to defend their title with the return of junior Rachel Barton and junior Madison Palmer. Juab returns both junior Lorralyn Bronson and senior Maura Williams, while Union returns sophomore Sidney Snow. Judge will be led by junior Madelyn Bossarte.

2A

North Summit will look to remain on top after losing its top runners and last year’s state champion. They return sophomore Elizabeth Zwahlen and senior Alicia Smith. Millard may have the preseason edge with the return of sophomores Audrey Camp and Katy Kelly.

North Sevier will be led by junior Mayci Torgerson, while Waterford is led by senior Mia Giallorenzi.

On the boys side, North Summit, Millard and Rowland Hall will battle it out. The Braves return senior Cody White and junior Gideon Gren, while Rowland Hall returns sophomore Carson Burian, and Millard is led by senior Jaren Camp and junior Shade Woodard.

1A

The 1A battle will come down to defending 1A boys and girls champion Milford and the Panguitch Bobcats. Last year Panguitch won the overall title with junior Taylia Norris, but Milford earned the team title behind the top-ten finishes of sophomore Kinley Spaulding, junior Akaydeh Livingston, and junior Taylor Alger.

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“It’s become tricker in 1A now that we only have to have four kids to have a team,” said Panguitch coach Danny Yardley. “The top two teams are really evenly matched in both boys and girls, and it should be a great race between them.”

Yardley said the competition will be much closer on the girls side, with Milford having an edge on the boys side.

Last year’s state champion was Adam Bunker, now a senior for Monticello. Panguitch’s Porter Schoppe, a sophomore, was second, while Monticello sophomore Alan Pettit earned third.

The top seven runners in the boys state meet last year were from Monticello or Panguitch, and only one runner from outside those two programs earned a spot in the top 10.