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All of the area schools of northern Utah and southeast Idaho convened at the American West Heritage Center in Wellsville, Utah for the 2021 Cache Box Invitational last week.

The Bear River teams came in, put up a good fight and had a good showing.

“I guess we were a little disappointed we didn’t do a little better this year, but we just might have had our best showing ever,” Coach Dan Line said. “We only had one team and individual title, but overall we were rock solid.”

Line’s praise for the team was due to it being the only team in all five races to have placed in the top three.

Overall combined team scores were: Preston (9), Bear River (12), Ridgeline (16), Green Canyon (24), Sky View (26), Mountain Crest (30), Box Elder (30), Logan (35) and West Side (41).

The Bears’ JV girls squad had its best showing ever, taking second place in front of everyone but Preston. The JV girls had never finished higher than fourth (2019), or beaten Ridgeline or Mountain Crest. It was mission accomplished this year, especially after having finished dead last in 2020.

“Madison Auble and Makayla Arnold are two great younger runners on the team,” Coach Tyrell Neal said. “They have improved all year and they both medaled (Auble 3rd, 21:56; Arnold 7th, 22:24) and led the way for us.”

The Rookie JV boys garnered the only team title for the Bears, taking first over region foes Sky View and Ridgeline with sophomore Dakota Julander (19:17) getting the only individual title. Newcomer and fellow sophomore Ren Hunter had a great finish to take second (19:57).

First-year runner Thomas Reid (20:29) took sixth, Logan Dean (20:42) ninth and Tanner Hamson (20:46) 10th.

In the faster JV race the Bears were upset by two hungry squads in Ridgeline and Preston, losing by a score of 46-54-55. Ryan Pace (4th, 18:29) and Carter Hamson (9th, 18:44) medaled for the JV squad.

In the final two races of the day the varsity squads held their own with more third-place finishes. Senior star Liz Phillips took home an impressive fourth place (19:47) for the only medal on the girls’ side. The next four girls in for the scoring places showed great team work with all four girls within five places of each other and 17 seconds apart. Leading the way in the No. 2 spot was Mattie Winward (20th, 21:20) followed by Becca Curtis (21st, 21:22), Bethany Richard (23rd, 21:36) and Katie Wynn (24th, 21:37).

“We are pleased with the day,” Neal said. “We had a clear goal to run together and stay healthy and that’s exactly what we came out with.”

Neal made it a point to single out what a great job Wynn, a senior, did in helping be that fifth scorer.

The boys wanted to repeat their runner-up finish from last year and coming into the meet it sure pointed to them being able to do that.

“First off, Preston varsity boys and girls were just tremendous,” Line said. “They are at another level than the rest of the area schools even though they are about half the size.”

Line mentioned the Preston boys because they won their fourth title in a row (23 points). Green Canyon, the Bears’ top rival for the boys region title, snuck in front for second by a score of (94) to the Bears (102).

The Bears, some of whom have been hampered by illness, failed to medal in the race while being led by senior Ammon Hunter (11th, 17:20), David Bourgeous (18th, 17:45), Matthew Spotten (22nd, 17:53), Braxton Craven (23rd, 17:54), Phillip Gallegos (28th, 18:03), Kael Kowallis (34th, 18:14) and Kenneth Pingle (50th, 18:45).

“Hopefully we place a little better individually once we get healthy,” Line said. “Still three weeks to Region, so we are in a good spot heading down the final stretch of the season.”

Although the teams didn’t quite hit their top-end goals at the meet, Athletic Director Van Park delivered some amazing news to the athletes and their parents. For the third year in a row the varsity girls were named 4A State Academic Champions of the year for the XC with a combined GPA over 3.95. Last year the varsity boys were runner-ups but were not to be denied this time around by also being named 2021 4A State Academic Champions of the year. Congratulations to all the girls and boys, their parents and their teachers and high school administrators.

The Bears were scheduled to race at home Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. at Jeanie Stevens Park. Spectators are welcome but not allowed out on the race course (at Skyway Golf Course). The team will also travel to the Burley Invitational at Kasota Park in Paul, Idaho to face off against some of the better 4A Idaho schools in the state on Friday, Oct. 8.

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