Participating in the Highland Invitational at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City last Thursday, expectations weren't too high for the Park City High School cross-country team.
The girls' team, coming off its sixth-straight 3A state title, lost several key seniors from last year's squad. The boys' team also faced a few question marks, mainly at the bottom of the roster.
But, when the dust settled after Thursday's race, Park City senior Alyssa Snyder finished first overall, beating several 4A and 5A opponents in the process.
"Alyssa kind of surprised some people, including me," Park City coach Steve Cuttitta said. "She beat a couple nationally-ranked runners. She didn't start out fast, she just ran an even pace and took the win."
Cuttitta added that the victory bodes well for Snyder's final season in a PCHS uniform.
"It's nice to get a win whenever you can and put your name out there," he said.
Overall, the girls' team finished 11th, an encouraging sign for the young runners.
"Of our five scorers, four had never been on varsity before," Cuttitta said. "They were all underclassmen."
With some more practice, and as the underclassmen get more meets under their belts, Cuttitta believes the girls' team will be much better toward the end of the season.
"We've got some work to do," he acknowledged, "But I think our improvement curve will be really steep."
The boys' team, led by four senior runners, is still working on developing several underclassmen of its own.
"We only ran our four seniors in the varsity race," Cuttitta said. "Basically all our other runners are brand new, so we didn't want to throw them to wolves just yet. We're still looking for our fifth, but our top four are competitive up front."
On Wednesday, the Miners ran in their first Region 10 meet of the season at Union. Despite sitting out top runners like Snyder and the four senior boys, Park City still turned in an impressive performance.
Freshman Liza Greene won the girls' race, with sophomore Maddie Carr crossing the finish line in third place. Claire Breiholz, Tracy Kucherak and Aspen Neville finished eighth, ninth and tenth, respectively.
Tate Hoefler led the boys' squad, finishing 16th overall. Karsten Beling came in 24th place.
This weekend, both the boys' and girls' teams will compete in the Grass Relays in American Fork.
"We're going to be running everybody," Cuttitta said. "After that, we have a week and a half before we race again. But this will let us compete against 4A and 5A schools again, which is what we need right now."
The next Region 10 meet will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at Uintah High School in Vernal.