Editor’s note: This is the seventh of an 11-part series profiling various spring high school sports in Cache Valley and recognizing the seniors from those teams.
The most talented Logan High team in recent memory headlined what appeared to be a promising season for Cache Valley’s high school boys track & field programs.
For starters, the Grizzlies welcomed back most of their standout performers from their Region 12 championship squad from a year ago. Additionally, Sky View always has one of the better teams in the region, Ridgeline and Green Canyon were primed for breakout seasons, and Mountain Crest made decent strides in 2019.
Unfortunately for these local track & field athletes, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of what could have been an intriguing season barely after it started. All of the teams in the region were only able to compete in one meet before everything ultimately came to a halt.
Here is a breakdown of each Cache County boys program:
The 2020 campaign appeared to be somewhat of a rebuilding one for the Bobcats, who graduated the lion’s share of their state qualifiers from last spring. Sky View finished third at the region meet in 2019.
“That’s a good question,” SV head coach Jim Walker said when asked about the realistic expectations of his squad. “I mean, we were going to be a pretty young team, but we have some good potential. Overall, our strengths were going to be with our distance runners. We had a couple strong distance runners. I felt like we had some strong sprinters this year and, with that, some good relay teams. I thought we were going to be really strong in the hurdles as well. ... Long jump and high jump was going to be good.”
Sky View’s two returning state qualifiers were high jumpers Trey Nyman and sprinter/long jumper Traeson Martindale. Martindale “was looking really good in the sprints and long jump,” Walker said, and Nyman cleared the bar at 6 feet 0 inches in his team’s lone meet. Walker was also encouraged by how Nyman was coming along in the hurdles. Martindale helped the Bobcats place second in the 4x100-meter relay at the 4A State Championships a year ago.
Sky View’s long-time coach was also anticipating big things from Truman Moser in the javelin, hurdlers Parker Vail and Sam Thatcher, and distance runners Jared Hunt and Price Morris.
The Bobcats always have a lot of kids come out for track & field, and there were about 80 boys this season, including 12 seniors in Payton Creech, Truman Engler, Jacob Hunt, Jared Hunt, Riley Hyer, Lucas Larsen, McKay Love, Martindale, Manuel Mendivil, Morris, Nathan Olson and Rylan Turner.
“I’m like everyone else in that I feel really bad (for these seniors), but to be honest this is going to go on for a while,” Walker said. “There are worse things that are happening then (these kids) not being able to run track this spring. And that may sound cold, but these kids are going to face adversity in their lives and things don’t always work out like you hoped they would, but there are worse things in life and there are more important things than track. And this has certainly taught me that. I think for a lot of us, we’ve taken a step back and have just kind of re-evaluated our priorities. ... I hope this has taught the kids that lesson at least.”
Granted, Green Canyon has only been around for three academic years, but this was the first season its boys program had the pieces and experience to finish in the top half at the region meet.
“This year was going to be a big stepping stone for Green Canyon track,” GC head coach Dalen Van Wagoner said. “We felt the boys team had a lot more depth than we have had previously. As a coach, I honestly thought that we had a chance to take second in region this year. There were several athletes that have trained in the offseason and were looking real strong.”
The Wolves brought back four competitors who punched their ticket to state in an individual event last spring in distance runner Branson Sharp, hurdler Joshua Backlund, sprinters Dante Stewart and Jackson Monz, and high jumper Jalen Hinds. Sharp was coming off a strong cross country season and “was going to be huge for us in the distance events,” Van Wagoner asserted.
Van Wagoner was looking forward to watching Stewart compete this spring.
“Dante Stewart was going to dust the competition in the 100 and 200,” Van Wagoner said. “... He could have gone far at state.”
Standout football player Jack Radford elected to give the sport a try this season, and Van Wagoner felt “he was probably favored to win region” in the shot put. In addition to the aforementioned athletes, Green Canyon’s head coach was also expecting considerable contributions from McKade Hellstern, Monz, Carter Compton, Kayson Krebs, Garrison Herzog, Jordan Alder, John Carlson and Joshua Hansen.
The Wolves have 16 seniors in Alder, Bryton Blake, Carlson, Kenton Cooley, Gabriel Dayton, Ethan Delisle, Owen Everitt, Hansen, Herzog, Justin Hunt, Krebs, Bridger Michaelson, Stewart, Backlund, Dell Phelps and Radford.
“It’s just sad to think that some of the athletes were about to have the glory days of their high school sports careers and it all vanished,” Van Wagoner said. “These kids were about to make Green Canyon history, but instead they are part of a bigger history event. It is hard to lose the great seniors that worked so hard and were so dedicated. It is also hard to not see the what-could-have-been moments for them and the newcomers on the team. ... I hope this experience helps them realize the importance of family, friends, teachers and coaches, and how life is so precious. I wish them the best and I know they will be fine on the next journey ahead of them.”
The Grizzlies were the only Cache County boys team to bring back region champions in an individual event, and there were a handful of them. For starters, Bo Stearns was the two-time defending champ in the high jump.
Other current Grizzlies who beat all comers at region a year ago are Alex Rasmussen (3,200), Bracken Taylor (400), Jaylen Sargent (long jump) and Isaac Phillips (pole vault). Additionally, Logan senior Ian Bressel is a two-time region cross country gold medalist.
“Logan’s 2020 boys track team represented the best team that school has had in a long time, for sure the best over the six years I have been here,” Logan head coach Eric Strand said. “Last year the team won region and we only graduated one senior that contributed to the team title. ... We probably would have had to make several major mistakes at the region meet to lose. As coaches, we had kind of a more ambitious goal of getting at least third at state, but we will never really know how good the team could have done.”
Sargent, Stearns and Taylor were legitimate state title contenders, and Phillips was arguably 4A’s top pole vaulter. The pole vault is an exhibition event in the 4A classification. Sargent soared to a mark of 23 feet in the long jump in Logan’s only meet this spring, which might be a valley-wide record at the high school level.
Other Logan returners who powered their way to the state meet in an individual event last season were Nathan Orton, Bressel and Isaac Hopkins. Hopkins and Bressel competed in a pair of events, and Hopkins likely would have “placed high at state in the shot and discus,” Strand contended. Strand was confident Taylor and Orton both would have shined in the 200 and the 400.
Strand was also foreseeing breakout performances from guys like Easton Foster and Hyrum Rosenlund.
“There are honestly too many to talk about,” Strand said. “We had a lot of high performers this season.”
The Grizzlies had 11 seniors in Bressel, Jaren Cox, Kolby Davila, Kolton Freeman, Hopkins, Orton, Phillips, Rasmussen, Stearns, Taylor and Tylan Wiser. Rasmussen was arguably the valley’s most consistent cross country runner last fall.
“Seniors mean a lot to any track team,” Strand said. “When you have 120 athletes on your team and six coaches, you have to rely on your team leadership to run practice and meets smoothly. You have to rely on your seniors to help establish the team atmosphere. Losing a year of experience will be challenging to overcome next year. When I found out there would be no spring season, I was devastated. I have either been competing in or coaching track and field for 17 years straight. This is my first gap.”
The Riverhawks always had some talented athletes during their first three years as a program, but lacked depth. However, Ridgeline was much improved in that area this year.
“The 2020 Ridgeline theme has been ‘All In,’ with this as our starting point. We set goals to meet that, including region champs and as many kids as we could have qualified to state, with top finishes,” Ridgeline head coach Katrina Parker said. “As a coach you need to believe they can and then coach them to that goal. This year I really felt that as a boys and girls team, we had a real shot at winning the region title. In the men’s program, everything would have had to fall perfectly in place with our depth in the distance and relays to boost us (to a region title). ... I was excited to see what the athletes who have performed well since they were freshman could do with the hard work they have put in over the course of the offseason.”
Ridgeline captured its fourth consecutive region crown in boys cross country last fall, and then proceeded to place fifth at state — its best result as a program. Parker was looking forward to seeing how those distance runners — namely Quinten Wright, Spencer Adams, Joseph Cantwell, Teyvin Broadbent and Benson Weeks — would fare during the track season.
Wright (3,200) and Adams (800) were returning state qualifiers, and Wright was coming off a great cross country season. Meanwhile, Adams sparkled in Ridgeline’s lone meet this spring as he clocked in at 2:00 in the 800 and 4:34 in the 1,600.
Parker was also confident her squad was going to receive significant contributions from Jacob Salvesen, Charlie Nielsen, Bryant Phelps, Caden Adair, Payden Jenson, Stone Crandall, Donnie Phillips, Bruce McConkie, Noah White, Colter Ricks, Brock Parson and Jake Smith.
Ridgeline has a large senior class — 18 of them — in Adair, Broadbent, Cantwell, Dahle, Bradley Daines, Seth Duffin, Jensen, Paul Kelly, McConkie, Richard McMullen, Bronson Naser, Porter O’Reilly, Phelps, Ricks, Salvesen, Alma Taggart, Weeks and Wright.
“The day we heard that it wasn’t going to be just a couple of weeks, I did a video that reminded them that they were tough and it would be all right regardless of what happened on April 15th or the rest of the year,” Parker said. “... I love these kids and I wish I could make this all be different. They all deserve the world ... I know someday they will come upon something in their life where they have an epiphany where they then will be able to look back and see what all this taught them, and hopefully they will be able to have some feel better feelings.”
Track & field has seemingly gained some popularity at Mountain Crest over the past few years, and the Mustangs had a pretty large group of seniors on the boys side this spring.
Mountain Crest head coach Isaac Reeder, who is also in charge of the cross country program, was especially looking forward to how his middle distance runners would perform this spring.
“My coaching staff and I tried to shift our focus to the middle distances of the 400 and 800,” Reeder said. “We had a coach specifically for those distances. I encouraged my sprinters to experiment with the 400 or possibly the 800, as well as my distance kids try out the 800 or 400. I see these middle distances as a key to a strong track team. On the whole, we were also a young team this year and so I was eager to see what hidden talent was there, and what we could work to develop.”
The Mustangs were led by veterans Spencer O’Very and sprinter Trae Fuller. When healthy, O’Very was one of the best distance runners at the 4A level.
Mountain Crest has several promising youngsters, including juniors Cameron Swenson and Brady Bingham and sophomore Todd Rigby.
The Mustangs have 15 seniors in Alex Allred, Caleb Belles, Skyler Bladen, Ben Broderick, Bailey Diamond, Joseph Edlund, Fuller, Forrest Greene, Andrew Hadfield, Kevin Lee, Chance McMullin, O’Very, Jordan Olsen, Hunter Schroeder and Jonathon Young.
Schroeder is the reigning 4A state champion in wrestling at the 195-pound weight class and an all-state performer in football. Belles was also a standout player for his volleyball club team this spring.
“All of this came in phases ... two weeks of no competition, but still practice, then no in-person practice, then moratorium until April, then a final cancellation,” Reeder said of breaking the news of a canceled season to his team. “One of my assistant coaches wrote the seniors a letter. I wrote a short note to the whole team. I explained how hard this process of losing a season was on me and how I’d miss all the personal growth that comes with each season, but at the same time I told them that because of their efforts and those of all our community, that I truly believe that lives in Utah — and even Cache Valley — have been saved. I sincerely believe this and I thanked them for their sacrifice.”