Early on it was apparent it was a four-person race.
A pair of Grizzlies, a Riverhawk and a Mustang separated from the rest of the field in the 2019 Region 11 Boys Championships Tuesday afternoon on the Steve & Dona Reeder Cross Country Course at Utah State University.
The same four maintained a lead on the rest of the field throughout the 5K course, but one-by-one each started to fall behind Logan’s Ian Bressel. The senior never let up and cruised to the region title in a blazing time of 15 minutes, 59.3 seconds, letting out a loud scream as he crossed the finish line.
“I was absolutely not trying to go under 16 (minutes),” Bressel said. “I thought 16:32 was the mark to beat. That’s what I was gunning for. I had no idea (he was under 16). ... I was very, very excited. I’m trying to find a way to pay college and hopefully this is close enough to being fast enough.”
Fellow Logan senior Alex Rasmussen had run a 16:32 on the course earlier this season, and that is thought to be the fastest time by a high school runner.
“I don’t know for sure if that is a course record, but I was trying go 16:25,” Bressel said.
He did much better than that.
Bressel and Rasmussen, who push each other in practice and come up with strategies for races, worked together to drop Mountain Crest’s Spencer O’Very, the defending region champ. Then they went after Ridgeline’s Quinten Wright.
“Alex put a step on me, then Ian comes by and said ‘let’s break him,’” Wright said. “I was like ‘no.’ Then Ian broke both of us.”
When Bressel turned up the pace, he left Wright and Rasmussen. Neither could catch up in the final half mile. Wright was able to outsprint Rasmussen for second in 16:15.0 to 16:18.1. O’Very held on to fourth, crossing in 16:36.4.
“It’s been an awesome season,” Rasmussen said. “You work as hard as you can and then you leave it out on the course. I feel like we (Bressel and himself) both did that. This region has incredible athletes. They have always pushed me to do my best in workouts and in races. Ian did a really good job, and so did Quinten (Wright).”
While the race for individual glory was exciting, the team competition wasn’t nearly as thrilling. Ridgeline had its five runners that count toward the team score all finish in the top 12. Wright led the way with a pack of four Riverhawks less than a minute behind.
“This has been a special year for me,” Wright said. “Out of the all the teams, this is probably my favorite. I’ve fallen in love with this team. They have run with heart all season.”
For the fourth straight year, the Ridgeline boys finished atop the team standings with 36 points.
“The boys ran with a plan and they followed through on that plan,” Ridgeline head coach Mary Kirby said. “It was awesome for them. Logan is an awesome team. Great competition pushes us, and that helps.”
Logan finished second with 59 points, followed by Bear River (65), Sky View (103), Green Canyon (110) and Mountain Crest (125).
The top four finishers broke free from the rest of the region runners early on. That didn’t surprise Bressel.
“They always set the pace and I always struggle to keep up,” Bressel said with a laugh. “That’s how it goes every race.”
What did Bressel do different this time?
“I really, really, really wanted it,” Bressel said. “That’s all I can say. I really, really wanted it. ... The crowd at the end was great. I love people cheering no matter what school you go to.”
When he made his move near the end, Bressel thought Rasmussen would go with him.
“I didn’t mean to break off Alex,” Bressel said. “I thought he was with me, but then I noticed I had a little bit of a gap. I thought, guess this is it. This is where I kick. ... Having him (Rasmussen) in races has always pushed me to do my best. I think it goes both ways.”
Bressel is excited for state next week, but also that he is healthy. Last year he dealt with a stress fracture. This year a hip injury and then being sick slowed him down. He declared himself 100 percent now.
Rasmussen is looking forward to next week and the state meet.
“State will be good,” Rasmussen said. “It’s been an incredible experience.”
Wright said he went into the race thinking about the Rocky movie with Mr. T.
“When they asked Mr. T his prediction for the fight, he said ‘pain,’” Wright said. “That was about the only thing going through my head. It was pain the whole way.”
However, Wright was able to catch Rasmussen and take second. That has been a challenge for the Riverhawk senior this season.
“Usually, I don’t have a kick,” Wright said. “Sometimes you just have to get the job done that way. It came out of nowhere, really. ... All of those guys, Ian, Alex and Spencer are phenomenal runners.”
The finish impressed his coach.
“That’s the best finish I’ve seen from Quin in probably three or four years,” Kirby said. “It was awesome.”
The top 12 runners earned all-region accolades. Bear River’s Daniel Curtis was fifth in 16:41.5, followed by Ridgeline’s Teyvin Broadbent (16:49.4) and Spencer Adams (16:52.4), Bear River’s Peter Nielsen (16:52.8), Ridgeline’s Nate Weston (16:53.1), Sky View’s Jared Hunt (16:53.3), Green Canyon’s Branson Sharp (16:56.3) ad Ridgeline’s Benson Weeks (17:02.4).
The top five teams qualify for state, as well as three individuals from Mountain Crest in O’Very, Braxton Stoker and Ethen Bartlett.
In the junior varsity race, Bear River edged Ridgeline, 37 to 42. The Bears had three runners in the top five and their five counting toward the team score in the top 13. Ridgeline’s Tanner Jensen won the race as five Riverhawks were among the top 15.