WELLSVILLE — After a couple of disappointing outings, Preston traveled to Cache County with a chip on its shoulder.
That was not good news for the rest of the boys field at the annual Cache-Box cross country meet. The Indians took out their frustrations on the 5K course at the American West Heritage Center Wednesday afternoon and left no doubt they were the best squad in the eight-team field.
“It’s fun to come here, especially when you beat them (Utah schools),” said Preston’s Sam Jeppsen, who claimed the individual title. “We joke about we are the smallest school here and them not liking it when we come down here and kick their butts, but we like it. It’s a ton of fun to race against these guys.”
Jeppsen led a trio of Indians across the finish line first. In fact, four of the top five boys wore Preston uniforms. The Indians’ fifth runner came in 14th. Varsity teams race with seven athletes, with the top five counting toward the team score.
“It was a great day for sure,” Preston head coach Tyler Jones. “The first couple of meets we just haven’t quite clicked yet. Today they really had a great day. It was huge today. Today we took a big step forward.”
Preston took the traveling trophy back home as it finished with 25 points. Bear River took second with 66.
“I’m really proud of these boys,” Jeppsen said. “We work on having a good pack time and had to sort of start over this year with some new guys. These boys really brought in. I’m proud of Edison (Leffler) and Garrett (Hale). I’m proud of the whole team.”
Rounding out the field was Ridgeline (86), Green Canyon (105), Mountain Crest (112), Logan (135), Sky View (148) and Box Elder (193).
“It’s always great competition here at Cache-Box,” Jones said.
Ridgeline’s Nathan Weston set the early pace, but was quickly passed by Jeppsen and Preston’s Garrett Hale. Bear River’s Peter Nielsen and Daniel Curtis were in the mix as well.
“My goal is to always start out front and try and stay there,” Jeppsen said. “Edison (Leffler) passed me, but I knew I would be all right if I just kept contact with him. He pulled me for the second half of the race and Garrett (Hale) pulled me for the first half.”
By the midway point, the Preston duo was joined by Leffler as the three front runners. The Preston trio stayed in front the rest of the way.
Jeppsen crossed the finish line in 16 minutes, 30 seconds. Leffler was five seconds behind in second. Hale came in third with a time of 16:38.
“We have not done too well in our last two races,” Leffler said. “We were sick of that and excited to run fast today. ... I went out with the mentality that I could run with these guys and just wanted to do my best.”
Jeppsen passed his teammate with less than a half mile to the finish. The senior held on for the win, as his two teammates, who are both juniors, were right behind.
“We were pushing each other,” Leffler said. “It is good because we have close bond with our team. It is really motivating.”
Nielsen was able to barely hold on for fourth, while Preston’s Dawson Leffler nipped Curtis at the line to take fifth (16:50 to 16:51).
“We return five of our top seven from last year’s team (which took second at state),” Jones said. “We have experience. ... We want to be consistent and keep getting better so we are running our best at the end of October. ... Our No. 2 runner today was our fourth runner last week, so he stepped up today. To have four in the top five was a great performance today for the boys.”
Logan’s Easton Foster was seventh (16:54). Rounding out the top 10 were Green Canyon’s Branson Sharp (16:57), Mountain Crest’s Cameron Swenson (17:00) and Ridgeline’s Spencer Adams (17:10).
“I felt really good with my race today,” Foster said. “I’ve tried to plan my season to peak at the end. I felt strong and confident with my race, and tried to stay with the main pack. Those Preston boys are really fast. They are so good. They are impressive for sure.”
Looking at Region 11 runners, Foster was third behind the Bears. The senior was happy with that result.
“I think the region is going to be really fun and competitive,” Foster said. “It’s a good region. I’m excited to race them.”
The course was changed a little from past years. A narrow section was taken out, so that runners wouldn’t be so bunched up. The athletes all seemed to like the change.
“I liked it, because the old area was pretty sketchy,” Foster said. “This made it less sketchy to race, but the times were a little slower.”
“I liked it better this way,” Jeppsen said. “In the past you almost hit your head on a tree.”