PRESTON — It was a tune-up of sorts for the Preston cross country team Wednesday afternoon.
The Indians hosted the Preston Invitational at the Preston Golf and Country Club and ran a handful of personal-best times. Eight teams competed on the overcast and cool day — ideal for running fast times.
“Most meets are hot, but today was a little chilly, but great running conditions,” Preston head coach Tyler Jones said. “I think that’s why we had some good times today. ... We wanted to be running our best as we get ready for district next week. The boys seem to be coming on at the right time.”
The boys from Preston continued to prove they are a group to keep an eye on as the district and state meets approach. The Indians had their top five boys finish among the first nine runners across the finish line to easily win their own meet. The Indians scored 32 points.
“We were wanting to win today,” said Preston’s Riley Reid, who took second.
While Preston was impressive, Sugar-Salem was not far behind in the boys race with 37 points. Soda springs was third with 67, West Side came in fourth at 100 and Box Elder rounded out the top five with 147.
“It was perfect conditions today,” said Preston’s Josh Harrison, who took third. “Our coaches have done the best job possible to get us ready. Hopefully, we will peak at district and state.”
In the girls race, it was the Soda Springs squad coming out on top, despite Bear Lake having the first three finishers come in. The Kelsey sisters — Elli, Elise and Josi — were clear from the field as the trio of Bears crossed right after each other. The Cardinals scored 46 points, followed by Sugar-Salem (55), Bear Lake (64), Preston (79) and West Side (153) to round out the top five.
“The girls had a great showing,” Jones said. “We had two freshmen do well. ... Right now the girls are running great and have a shot to go to state.”
Despite having five finishers at the front at the end, Preston didn’t set the pace early on. The plan was to not go out too hard. The Indians also didn’t get caught up in trying to track down Kooper Williams of Sugar-Salem, who came in first in 15 minutes, 52.07 seconds.
“I was planning on going out a little slower, then speeding up,” said Reid, who clocked in at 16:12.79. “I’ve found out that’s what works best in my races, so that’s what I did. I’m pretty proud of my race.”
Harrison took a different approach.
“My main strategy was to try and stick with Kooper Williams from Sugar-Salem,” said Harrison, who completed the 5K course in 16:18.46. “But he broke our whole team pretty early in the race, so then it was just sticking with Riley and pushing each other.”
Reid and Harrison seem to be taking turns as the top Preston finisher. Both juniors said they like pushing each other in races and practices.
“I like Josh. He is good competition and a good teammate,” Reid said. “Josh and Sam (Jeppsen, who took fifth) push me. Our whole varsity team is good. We raced good and I had a PR. It felt good today. We are ready for district.”
“We’ve been trying to get our fifth, sixth, seventh runners up closer to help out,” Jones said. “Today, overall, we had a really good effort. ... It’s really good to have two frontrunners up there. It makes our team better.”
West Side’s Jacob Moffat was right behind Reid and Harrison, taking fourth in 16:36.59. The Pirate junior was running on tired legs as he shared that he had spent some time deer hunting earlier in the day.
“I might of hiked a little too much,” Moffat said. “It was a good race. Preston is doing amazing. I was able to destroy all of our district competition here, so I was happy with that.”
Moffat called the course a bit soggy in spots. In fact, one of his teammates lost a shoe when someone stepped on the back of his shoe. Alex Winward kept running with just one shoe on.
“It was great,” Moffat said. “... As a team we are ranked second (in district) behind Soda (Springs). We are really close. We have a chance at district, but should be good to make it to state.”
Brenton Noreen was the second Pirate in, taking 20th in 18:03.94. The next three scoring West Side runners were in 24th, 25th and 28th.
In the girls race, a trio of Indians set the early pace as Paige Shumway, Andie Bell and McKinley Scott were at the front as the pack headed west across the golf course.
“We were trying to set a pace, and I was able to keep it better than in the past,” McKinley said. “... I feel pretty good how things went. This course was fun. ... We are ready for district.”
Bell ended being the first Preston girl in, taking eighth in 20:27.11, followed by Scott in ninth in 20:34.27 and Shumway in 12th in 20.44.79. This was just Bell’s fourth meet as the freshman has been playing on the soccer team.
“I was just trying to stay with McKinley and Paige because they are strong,” Bell said. “... I feel like I ran better than last time, so I feel good.”
Christina Tripp was the first West Side girl to come in, crossing the finish line in 23rd in 21:44.03.