SALT LAKE CITY — Heading to the 4A Girls State Cross Country Championship this year had a little extra meaning for Ridgeline.
For the first time in school history, the Riverhawks did not go to state as region champs. In three previous trips, the Ridgeline girls went south with a region title.
The extra motivation to be the best team from Region 11 at state and the return of one of their best runners from injury certainly helped the Riverhawks soar Wednesday at Sugar House Park. In fact, Ridgeline not only was the top team from Region 11, but had its best-ever finish at state. The Riverhawks ran well as a pack in the early going of the 5-kilometer race and finished strong to claim third place.
“It’s really cool that we had four girls from the region finish in the top 10,” said Ridgeline junior Madison Patrick, who placed third individually as well. “... We are so excited and looking forward to next year.”
Patrick is the first-ever Riverhawk to medal at state — the top 10 individuals receive medals. She was joined by the second-ever Ridgeline athlete to medal on Wednesday, and that was her younger sister, Alexis Patrick, who came in ninth.
“It’s scary, but I could not be more proud of her,” said Madison Patrick of her sister. “My sophomore year I came in top 20, so I’m so proud of her coming in ninth. She made me cry when I saw that she was ninth.”
The Patrick sisters led the Riverhawks with times of 18 minutes, 57 seconds and 19:12, respectively. Those were personal records for both sisters.
“This felt like my best race so far,” Madison Patrick said. “I wasn’t stressed out or anything. This was for fun and just to show that we love running.”
The next two Ridgeline runners were not far behind in Mackenzie Duncan (25th, 19:53) and Emily Spaulding (31st, 20:04). The fifth and final Riverhawk to count toward the team score was Gabrielle Phillips (65th, 21:08). Duncan was the Riverhawk that missed the region championships with an injury, but gutted out a run on Wednesday with a heavily tapped leg.
“Redemption for Madi(son),” Ridgeline head coach Mary Kirby said. “She beat everybody that beat her at region, which is sweet revenge. It was awesome. ... And we have all of these girls back, so they have a lot of high hopes for next year.”
The Riverhawks have gotten better at state each year since becoming a school in 2016. Ridgeline was 10th (2016), ninth (2017) and seventh (2018) before taking third this year.
“It was an awesome day,” Kirby said. “They ran very, very well. We are very excited to have two medals and finish the highest we ever have as a team.”
Pine View and Desert Hills traded places as the top teams in 4A from a year ago. The Panthers won easily this year with 70 points, followed by the Thunder at 118. Ridgeline checked in with 130, while Bear River was eighth at 192. The Bears edged the Riverhawks by two points to win the region title a week ago.
Rounding out the schools from Cache Valley were Sky View in 10th (300), Green Canyon in 12th (319.5) and Mountain Crest in 13th (329). Logan did not qualify a full team, but Abigail Blanchard led a trio of Grizzlies by finishing in 20:47 and in 55th place.
Madison Patrick entered the stadium at Highland High School with three other girls. It was a sprint finish for third, and the Riverhawk was up to the challenge.
“I really don’t know what happened; I know I’ve had a good kick, which comes from soccer and track,” Madison Patrick said. “But to be honest, I don’t know what happened. I was in my own world.”
Well, what happened was she took third by a second over Canyon View’s Malayna Steffensen and two seconds over Bear River’s Madison White, who was the Region 11 champ last week.
The top two runners finished well ahead of the rest of the field. Hurricane’s Caila Odekirk won the race in 18:17, while Pine View’s Jessica Hill was second in 18:42. The duo broke free from the lead pack two miles into the race.
“This year was different because no one went out way hard at the start,” Madison Patrick said. “This year we were all trying to figure out who was going to be the front runner. The pace felt slower than the last few years, but it definitely picked up at the end. I personally liked that better because I build into it. Going out to hard at the start, I get in my head.”
Sky View’s Kate Dickson was close behind Madison Patrick. The Bobcat junior was sixth in 19:04, a vast improvement from a year ago. She was 2:34 faster this year than in 2018.
“It was a hard race,” Dickson said. “My goal was to break 19, and I got 19:04 so I was close and that’s okay. It’s a lot better than last year. ... I was just trying to stay in that pack near the front so I could get top 10.”
Her twin sister Olivia Dickson was the next Bobcat, finishing in 48th in 20:26.
“We just want to go even harder next year,” Kate Dickson said.
Alexis Patrick was trying to stay up with her big sister, at least that was the goal going in. She did a pretty good job, trailing by just 15 seconds.
“The race was really, really good,” Alexis Patrick said. “If she (Madison) knew I was trying to keep up with her, she would have kicked it up a ton more. I wanted to try and get her this time.”
Running as a pack early on helped the sophomore.
“We have worked on running together,” Alexis Patrick said. “... I feel really, really good finishing in ninth. It’s amazing. We don’t lose anyone from this team, so now we can try and do better next year. It’s really exciting.”
The Mustangs were led by freshman Jordan Merrill. She came in 29th with a time of 20:01, just missing her goal of going under the 20-minute mark.
“It was an awesome experience, all the girls are so fast,” Merrill said. “It was good and fun.
Merrill didn’t get the exact start she wanted, but has an ability to pick up the pace as the race progresses. She just had more runners to pass this time.
“I like to catch people along the way, but I was kind of confused on the whole starting process,” Merrill said. “It’s simple, so I’m kinda dumb, but that’s okay. I started a little late and kind of got caught behind people. That pushed me back a bit. ... I was hoping to have a little bit faster time, but that’s all right. I have years to come.”
The Wolves were led by Bella Jensen in 37th place in 20:10. Twin sisters Taylor and Lauren Hancey were 42nd and 53rd, respectively, for Green Canyon in 20:19 and 20:38. The Wolves were also third as a team academically.