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More than 600 miles on I-15 made for a long day, but the Bear River High School cross country team gained some valuable experience at a meet in Cedar City last week.

The Bears joined some of the state’s top talent Friday at the Cedar City Invitational.

This was an important trip to see the teams down south together for the first time all year. Additionally, partway into the season it was announced that state would not be held in Salt Lake City for the first time in over 40 years due to COVID-19 restrictions. The 4A state meet was moved to Cedar City on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

All teams from Region 9 (St. George and Cedar), Stansbury, Ridgeline and Bear River attended last week.

“That is an amazing region down there,” Boys Head Coach Dan Line said. “We can do well at state in two weeks, but we will have to be at our best and give it everything we have.”

For the Bears, senior Peter Nielsen shined by garnering 10th place and an excellent time of (15:55). Fellow seniors Daniel Curtis (16th, 16:20) and Gabe Wilson (39th, 16:55) also showed promise.

Fellow varsity runner junior Phillip Gallegos went down with an injury in the race and varsity No. 5 runner Matt Spotten was sick and stayed home.

Although the varsity team wasn’t able to place in the team standings, the JV squad that also came down sure did.

Junior Kale Kowallis surged to the front through the 2-mile mark into the top 10 and soon pulled the whole squad up with him. With less than a mile to go, Kowallis (10th, 17:51) was joined in the lead pack by senior Kourtlan Rasmussen (6th, 17:42) and Ammon Hunter (9th, 17:49). Junior Will Rhodes (16th, 18:02) and senior Tate Pedersen (19th, 18:09) kept the whole team all in the top 20.

Sandwiched between the boys races, the girls varsity stepped up and duked it out with the best teams in the state.

Defending state champion Pine View put their top 6 girls in the top 25 places and state trophy favorite Desert Hills wasn’t far behind.

Shining through for the Lady Bears’ squad again was standout Madi White.

“Madi is getting recognized by colleges throughout the state,” Girls’ Head Coach Tyrell Neal said. “She is going to have some options.”

The previous week at the Royal Run in Roy, White was beaten by Pine View No. 1 runner Adri Baker by over 22 seconds. One week later she surpassed that gap with another sizzling time of 18:30 (3rd place), which swung 27 seconds in her favor over Baker from the previous race.

The girls team continues to gain strength and health as they get closer to the region championships next week. Coming off of an injury, Shylee Kofoed ran her best race of the year (20:33). Liz Phillips went down several weeks later and had her first pain-frtee race last week (21:36). Katie Wynn suffered a tough hip muscle injury at Cache Box and somehow came back Friday to run the whole race.

Rebecca Curtis (21:14) came in at the No. 3 varsity spot for the Lady Bears. Another freshman, Madison Auble (23:08), came through as the No. 5 runner in her first varsity race ever. Senior Kaitlyn McKee rounded out the top spots with a solid time of (23:38).

SPECIAL RECOGNITION: Prior to the start of the first race, Athletic Director Van Park announced to all the team and parents that the boys’ varsity team has been recognized as the 4A Cross Country Academic State Champion Runner-Up. And for the second year in a row, the girls’ varsity team has been named 4A Girls Academic State Champions. Thanks to all the high school staff, administrators and school board members and personnel for their support.

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