WELLSVILLE — Some less-than-ideal conditions didn’t seem to put too much of a damper on one of the most iconic youth sporting events in Cache Valley.
Fifth-graders from nine different elementary schools located in the south end of the valley competed in the Wellsville Mile on a chilly and rainy Tuesday morning. The 38th installment of the popular race started and concluded at the location of the old Wellsville Elementary School, which was torn down a few months ago.
For the second straight year, only fifth-graders participated in the event, and that will likely be the format for the foreseeable future, race director Teressa Breinholt said. Despite having fewer numbers than past years, the excitement that goes along with this long-standing race was still palpable.
“It’s exciting and the city has been a great support, they really have,” Breinholt said. “Anything we need, they’ve been right there to help us. ... Everybody’s just been good to work with.”
The first two heats of the girls competition were essentially free of rain, but the bad weather intensified during the final two heats. Athletes from the fastest of the girls heats were getting poured on, but it didn’t seem to faze Dannalee Walton — and neither did her asthma.
The Heritage Elementary student worked her way to the front of the pack, took the lead somewhere between the third and fourth blocks, led comfortably at the midway point and cruised to victory. Walton was the only girl to break the seven-minute barrier as she crossed the finish line in 6 minutes, 44.2 seconds.
“I only got three seconds better than my best time overall, but it felt really good just to win because I’ve never really won anything,” Walton said. “I’ve won soccer tournaments a few times, but it’s fun to win a race.”
Walton, who plays left defender on her club soccer team, was oh so close to beating her older sister’s time from a few years ago.
“I wanted to beat her time, but I still didn’t,” said Walton, who beat her closest competitor by 16 seconds. “I think she got 6:42 and a got 6:46, but that’s OK.”
The rain started to subside during the first of four boys heats, and the course was relatively dry for the final two heats, much to the delight of Mason Olsen. Olsen led from start to finish in the boys competition and flirted with a sub-six-minute time before clocking in at 6:01.2.
The Mountainside student built what proved to be an insurmountable lead halfway through the race and beat the silver medalist by more than 15 seconds.
“It feels good,” Olsen said. “I mean, it feels good to accomplish something like this.”
Like Walton, Olsen is a multi-sport athlete as he also enjoys soccer and basketball. Olsen was hoping to complete the course in less than six minutes, and likely would have accomplished his goal on a warmer day.
Olsen watched his older sister compete in the Wellsville Mile on three different occasions — sixth-graders ran in 2017 — and watching her motivated him to do well when it was his time to showcase his skills.
“I was pretty excited (to run),” he said. “I thought I was going to win it, so it feels really good.”
Wellsville student Davis Cooper came from behind to place second in the boys field with a time of 6:16. The bronze medalist was Providence’s Ben Kotter, who finished one second later.
Rounding out the top five in the boys competition were two more Wellsville students in Preston Case (6:25) and Max Chambers (6:29). Also finishing in the top 10 were Tason Jensen (River Heights, 6:30), Landon Green (Lincoln, 6:33), Kevin Rigby (Heritage, 6:35), Parker Reynolds (Providence, 6:35) and Krew Jones (Lincoln, 6:37).
The runner-up on the girls side was Millville’s Keagan Grange, who clocked in at 7:00. Bronze medalist Isabella Johnson of Wellsville crossed the finish line four seconds later, and she was followed by Ila Webb (Providence, 7:04), Brooke Smith (Providence, 7:08), Mylee Myers (Mountainside, 7:08), Addie Davis (Millville, 7:11), Sidnie Nelson (River Heights, 7:13), Tara Niemann (Mountainside, 7:16) and Katherine McConnkie (Providence, 7:19).
High school Harriers from the Mountain Crest and Ridgeline cross country teams were on hand to pace and encourage all of the competitors.
The torch bearers were Baylee Jacobsen and Brooklyn Lindley, and all nine schools had a Spirit Award recipient. Those students were Daxton Archibald (Wellsville), Andrew Johnson (Nibley), Easton Hammond (Heritage), Camden Yarrington (Mountainside), Oaklyn Zollinger (River Heights), Tylie Anderson (Millville), Lucy Ford (Canyon), Aaron Arizmendi (Lincoln) and Meggie Sena (Providence).
More results from the Wellsville Mile can be found in the Valley View section on Page B2.