For the second year in a row, the Bear River boys varsity cross country squad is bringing home a region title.
“I really thought we could do it, but I also knew it would be close,” Bear River Head Coach Dan Line said. “ I had a lot of respect for Green Canyon going in.”
From the start the Bear River varsity boys settled into the right spots — not up front in winning position, but right off the leaders and top teams in striking position. Starting with top Senior Ammon Hunter (4th, 16:33), the boys slowly but surely moved into contention. Hunter went from 10th place early on all the way to 4th to secure the only medal for the team.
“Not only is he talented, but he is a hard worker and a very tough young man,” Line said of Hunter.
Perhaps the top showing for the boys came from senior Phillip Gallegos (11th, 17:05). Gallegos was out of the top 25 places at the mile mark but, began a slow steady charge over the last two miles and narrowly missed a medal.
“Phillip reminds me a lot of Keyjun Hale last year,” Line said. “Keyjun was up and down with injuries, illness and racing, but when we needed him he came through at region, and boy did Phillip ever come through for us this year.”
Following Gallegos were sophomore David Bourgeous (13th, 17:09), senior Matt Spotten (14th, 17:10) and sophomore Braxton Craven (15th, 17:16). That pack secured the team title for the Bears with a narrow 57-60 score over Green Canyon. Seniors Kenneth Pingle (22nd, 17:33) and captain Kael Kowallis (27th, 17:53) did their part as well by beating Green Canyon’s No. 6 and 7 runners in case there was a tie.
Line was quick to point out that the boys all suffered through some adversity the last several weeks leading up to the meet including illness, injury and time away from the team.
“I told them that if they ran for themselves they would lose, but if they ran smart and ran for the team we would win it,” he said.
Rounding out boys field were Sky View (71), Ridgeline (84), Logan (97) and Mountain Crest (141).
The girls varsity squad also had a repeat performance, and although it was an excellent showing, it wasn’t quite what they wanted as they were edged by Ridgeline, 36 to 51.
“Several races this season we were right with Ridgeline in the team standings and after coming off an amazing performance at the Burley Invitational we really thought we could win,” Coach Tyrell Neal said. “We still think we can beat them, but they have been a little more consistent than us and their experience helped them win region this year.”
The girls started off just like they planned and were on track for the title before slipping in the middle section of the race to take second place.
“We sat the girls down the next day and said who had the best day at the region championship and of course they said the boys,” Line said, “but we pointed out to them that they had a lower team score and three medalists, and the boys only one.”
Senior Liz Phillips was a pre-race favorite and started out in a great spot just behind the leader through the first mile before slipping back to take 6th place (19:47).
“I really believe she just needed one extra day of rest. I missed that,” Line said. “She is going to come back strong at state and do great.”
Phillips was followed by newcomer and freshman Gracie Meeds (7th, 19:48) and then sophomore standout Bethany Richard (9th, 20:02). Just missing the podium was Senior Shylee Kofoed (13th, 20:27), who has been battling an injury all season and just missed medaling at region for the fourth time.
“In my mind this was her best race ever,” Line said of Kofoed. “We believed in her the whole time.”
Top sophomore Rebecca Curtis struggled like Phillips due to dehydration but still ran solid (16th, 20:38) and was the final scoring runner for the team. The final varsity spots were filled by sophomore Mattie Winward (21st, 21:06) and senior Katie Wynn (29th, 21:59). It was the first time all seven runners broke 22 minutes at region.
The JV runners from Bear River also had an excellent showing as the boys’ squad avenged a loss at Cache-Box to Ridgeline to win their third consecutive region title, 22-45. The boys were led by JV region champion Ryan Pace (1st, 17:31), followed by Braxley Hale (2nd, 17:49), Reed Bourgeous (3rd, 17:50) and Carter Hamson (4th, 17:55). Sophomore Dakota Julander (12th, 18:11) and senior captain Will Rhodes (15th, 18:25) also medaled. Sophomore Ren Hunter (23rd, 18:41) was the final placer for the Bears.
For the girls, sophomore Madison Auble barely missed the title, placing second with an excellent time of 21:36, just 13 seconds behind the winner. Freshman Makayla Arnold (5th, 21:59) and junior Savanna Sexton (10th, 22:08) also got on the medal stand. Final team placers for the Lady Bears JV team were freshman Katie Reid (25th, 23:21), Alysha Spotten (28th, 23:25), Kelsie Hanks (35th, 23:48) and senior Reese Walsh (58th, 24:44). The JV girls took home third place.
The Bears program had the best combined varsity and overall team placements in the Region:
Bear River (7), Ridgeline (8), Green Canyon (11), Sky View (16), Mt Crest (19) and Logan (23).
Both varsity squads punched their tickets to the 4A State Championships on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at Rose Park Regional Sports Complex in Salt Lake City.