Until someone can knock them off, Ridgeline is the team to beat in both girls and boys cross country.
Since the school opened in 2016, the Riverhawks have been the top finishing squad in the region for boys and girls the past three years. Many coaches in the valley believe this may be the year that changes, but are also respecting what Ridgeline has done and expect the Riverhawks to be right up there battling for another top podium finish.
While the Ridgeline girls have continued to reload each year and hold off all region challengers, the boys narrowly beat Green Canyon in 2018. It came down to the fifth runner for each school to decide the region title. The top five runners count for team score out of seven who compete.
With many talented runners back for 2019 and some athletes moving to the valley from different states, the cross country competition in Cache Valley should once again be exciting. One difference is the top five teams make it to state, so one will be left out.
The Riverhawks return four of their top five girls from ’18 and added a runner who moved to the area from Missouri. Only the steady and consistent Mikaeli Hill is gone from the squad that counted toward team points at region and state.
Madison Patrick, who was the region champ in 2017 as a freshman and finished third a year ago, headlines a talented and deep group of Ridgeline girls. The Riverhawks had five runners among the top 15 individuals at the region championships last fall. In fact, all seven runners were among the top 18.
Emily Spaulding was seventh, Alexis Patrick was 14th and Gracie Findley was 15th. Brynlee Brown and Gabrielle Phillips ran at state and have improved, head coach Mary Kirby said. With Mackenzie Duncan moving to the area, the Riverhawks look loaded again. Kirby called Duncan on her of top three runners.
“My second, third and fourth runner are all within five seconds of each other,” Kirby said. “They are switching off, just depends on the day. My top five are running really, really well. They are looking good and a lot better than they were last year.”
Anna Oborn and Hailey Rigby also add depth.
“We have a very young team,” Kirby said. “I have no seniors in my top seven. I bet in the top 10 girls there is not a senior, and they are good.”
On the boys side, the Riverhawks are primarily seniors and juniors. They lost Duncan Hickman, Jonathan Cantwell and Easton Ewer, but bring back a good core.
Leading the way is senior Quinten Wright, who “has gotten faster.” Fellow seniors Teyvin Broadbent, Joseph Cantwell and Benson Weeks — who didn’t run last year — are joined by juniors Spencer Adams, Nate Weston and Tanner Jensen.
“All the boys have run faster; they all have improved,” Kirby said.
Who is the team to beat in the region?
“No idea,” Kirby said. “There are some good teams in this region.”
The Wolves were oh so close to ending the Riverhawks’ reign on the boys side and also finished second with their girls. While Green Canyon lost their top runner on both teams, most of the rest of the runners are back, and the Wolves are hungry.
“I know Green Canyon will be among the top region teams,” GC head coach Jared Storrs said. “We know Ridgeline has really tough teams that we will have to beat.”
Twins Taylor and Lauren Hancey ended up being the top runners for the Wolves by the time the region meet and state rolled around. Dantzel Peterson will be missed as well as the graduated Abigail Israelsen. But a host of other girls are set to fill the void in Bella Jensen, Katie Latvakoski, Jerica Blotter, Kyana Swenson, Kaylee Baker and Laurale Olsen.
“We have no seniors on the girls varsity squad,” Storrs said. “That being said, there is a lot to watch with the Hancey twins, Bella Jensen and freshman Katie Latvokaski.”
The Wolves lost several boys to graduation, most notably Ethan Fullmer, who was one of the best in the region. However, Green Canyon returns a solid group who are mostly seniors now.
Branson Sharp was the No. 2 runner most of last season and will lead the Wolves. He is joined by Colin Wiedeman, Dell Phelps, Jackson Montz, Tanner Jenkins, Mark Latvokoski, Lucas Lowder and Ryan Scott. Scott is a freshman, and Storrs is very high on him.
“We have four seniors on the boys team, followed by a pack of young guns who are working hard,” Storrs said.”
The Grizzlies are loaded on the boys team, and that may be an understatement. All seven are back from a squad that went to state a year ago, plus two injured athletes return who have been on the varsity squad in the past.
“We hope to be right there competing for first place in the region this October with our boys,” Logan head coach Todd Campbell said. “... Until Ridgeline is unseeded as region champions, I suppose they will be the team to beat.”
The seven Grizzlies who went to state are Alex Rasmussen — who was the second-best valley finisher at state — Easton Foster, Cole Hoglund, Bracken Taylor, Stratford Needham, Tyler Wiser and Tim Bradford. Ian Bressel and Mitch Carter are back from injury to give Logan a real strong team.
“Alex Rasmussen and Ian Bressel are definitely our strongest runners, and we expect them to have great seasons,” Campbell said.
While the boys will compete for the region title, the girls are trying to get back to state. Abigail Blanchard is back after qualifying for state as an individual. She is joined by returners Lucy Leary, Whitley Wiser and Hana Araya.
The Bobcat girls suffered the biggest loss in Arianna Steiner, who was the region champ and placed third at state. Those are big shoes to fill for varsity returners Kate Dickson, Olivia Dickson, Kaylee Grigg and London Mortensen, who all helped the Bobcats make it to state as a team.
“Arianna is impossible to replace, and Anne Rawlinson was a solid four-year varsity runner,” SV head coach John Womack said. “We have a really young team that has lots of potential. Kate and Olivia Dickson and Kaylee Griggs have all had great summers. ... Kate Dickson has made huge gains over the last year and should have an excellent season.”
Sky View’s top boy from 2018 was just cleared to run in mid-August, which is good, but also shows the Bobcats will have to rely on others to start the season. Jared Hunt suffered a “major injury last winter while skiing.” Hunt finished second at the region meet and qualified as a individual runner for state.
Truman Egler, Dylan Mortensen and Joey Eck all saw time with the varsity a year ago. Price Morris is a senior who has not run cross country before, but has been pushing the varsity runners.
“Engler has had an awesome spring and summer,” Womack said. “He has put in some major miles and I'm excited to see how it pays off. ... Jared Hunt has a long ways to go, but he is so competitive. I'm excited to see where he's at by region.”
With five teams qualifying for state, the coach wants to see both of his teams make it.
“We have the deepest team that we've had on both the boys and girls side since we split with Green Canyon,” Womack said. “We will be solid this year, but we will have to show that we can compete with the region contenders.”
The Mustangs have the best boy back in the region. Spencer O’Very won every region gathering he ran in and blew away the field at the region championship. He went on to place 13th at state — the best mark by a Cache Valley runner from Utah.
“We have our top two boys back, which is nice,” MC head coach Isaac Reeder said. “They are looking really good this year. We need some other people step up. ... We have seen a lot of improvement with our boys.”
Cameron Swenson would be the other Mustang that Reeder is talking about. The team did not qualify for state, but Swenson joined O’Very as an individual at state.
Braxton Stoker and freshman Max Carpenter, who surprised the Mustang coach at tryouts, should give the Mustangs more punch this year.
“It’s always nice when you have someone you don’t know and they show up in your top seven,” Reeder said. “I’ll take that any day.”
On the girls side, the Mustangs have lost one of their faster runners to an injury. But they gained a freshman who has quickly moved up to the top runner in Jordan Merrill. Senior Kelli Camire decided to come out again and is the No. 2 runner right now. Lynn Seamons and Marissa Hancock have been developing into solid runners.
“It’s exciting to have her (Merrill),” Reeder said. “We’ve been waiting three years, anticipating. What I love about Jordan is she loves to run as much as anyone I’ve every met. She runs year around. That excitement spreads to the team.
“I think our girls are stronger than last year. For us, the goal is to get both teams to state.”