Miners surge forward at Murray Invite
If there was any doubt about Park City’s dominance in cross-country, Friday’s Murray Invite made it official.
Despite battling wind, rain and cold, and the absence of their No. 2 runner, Julie McMahon, the Park City girls team easily beat their biggest competitors in every division.
"All that and we still won," said Miners head coach Jeff Wyant.
He said the biggest challenge was just keeping the team warm and ready prior to the start. Once on course, Wyant says most runners are used to competing in varying conditions and it doesn’t affect their performance very much. Elli Reed once again led the girls’ team finishing 11th with a time of 19 minutes and 48.9 seconds. The other Park City runners came in quickly behind her, guaranteeing the victory. Elizabeth Guiney led the Park City girls for much of the race, but eventually gave up a few spots to finish in 13th place. The Miners are unique in that they have no leading runners, but rather a core group of very fast competitors that finish together at the front of the pack and combine for high team scores.
"We don’t have to have a star, we have a constellation," Wyant said.
The Miners also had to compete without being full-strength. Jesse Christjans fell three times on the slick trail, which hurt her time and McMahon is battling a lower leg muscle injury.
This is the second large, statewide cross-country meet win that the Miners have managed to run away with. Last week, Park City had a similar performance at the BYU Autumn Classic. With two solid wins underneath their belt, Wyant is fairly sure of a high national ranking.
The biggest concern now is just keeping the team motivated and focused on the state championships coming up in a few weeks.
You don’t want to relax and believe everything’s guaranteed," Wyant said. "Everyone’s gunning for us."
Some of the top teams that Park City beat included Mountain Crest, Davis, Cedar and Judge. Wyant says that even though Judge and Cedar are right behind them in 3A, their lack of depth will keep them from beating the Miners.
"We don’t feel threatened by them," Wyant said. "If we beat Mountain Crest and Davis, realistically, there is no team that will beat us."
The boys’ team also made some serious moves in Murray. Prescott McCarthy was the top Park City finisher among both the boys and the girls with a time of 16:36.6 and a fifth place finish.
"He was right there the whole race," Wyant said. "He finally felt good and ran hard."
The entire team finished just 28 points behind league-leading Cedar. Region 10 rival Judge also looked strong, with Luke Pistarton taking fist place.
Wyant says that if McCarthy keeps running as hard as he did on Friday and gets a few lucky breaks, he could likely challenge for the state title. Judge is also known for running at peak performance before the state meet, while Park City also peaks at the end, which should help McCarthy. Brent Ryberg, Cameron Edwards and Luke Danitz also did well for the Miners.
Wyant says that the two large meet wins are very gratifying for himself and his co-coach Bill Kahn. He said that seven years ago they took over the team and have slowly watched it turn into a dynasty. The girls are perennial state champions and the boys are expected to win the region title this year and could finish as high as second in the state.
Wyant attributes the team’s success to a combination of his training regimen and Kahn’s ability to recruit and maintain the school’s best runners. They also nurture young runners to work hard until they start performing at their highest level. The state title is also enticing.
"If you’re on the team and you can survive the training, you are guaranteed a state championship," Wyant said.
This week, some of the less experienced runners will get their opportunity to shine at a small meet at the Cottonwood Complex in Murray on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 3 p.m. the entire team will compete again on Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Wasatch Rendezvous at the Cottonwood Complex at 8 a.m.
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