Park City races into national rankings
Park City cross-country coaches Bill Kahn and Jeff Wyant knew that if their entire team showed, they could be effective, but they were in no way ready for Saturday’s BYU Autumn Classic at the East Bay Golf Course where the girls team literally ran past competition from every division in the state.
"I knew there was a chance to win it, but I had no idea," Wyant said.
The Miners left 4A and 5A schools in their wake, including cross-country powerhouses Davis and Mountain Crest. Although none of the Park City girls finished in the top 10, the Miners’ depth is what won the race for them.
As the girls took the starting line, Wyant and Kahn commented to each other that this was the best starting line they had ever put in a race. After the first mile, the seven Park City varsity runners were among the top 30 out of 400 entered in the race.
"Our whole team was one group. You just can’t beat that," Wyant said.
In fact, the Miners’ last runner had finished before Davis’ third. Although Elli Reed led the Miners in 15th place, the race was really run on the strength of the fourth through seventh place runners. All the runners finished within 28 seconds of one another creating a full-strength performance that no other team could match.
Wyant says the Miners’ mid-season success is a mixture of many factors. The coaches spent all week preparing the team to run on a grass course. Also, the entire team, including Reed, who splits time with the varsity soccer squad, and Rosie Brennan, who is recovering from surgery last spring, competed in the race. But Wyant says the biggest factor was just that the team was focused on winning.
"It was just a great day," Wyant said.
The Miners also boasted a first-place win by Allison Williams in the freshmen competition and a third place by Lindsey Gideon in the junior varsity race. Right behind Reed in the varsity run were Julie McMahon, Jesse Christjans, Brennan, Elizabeth Guiney and Gillian Gorelick.
"The scary thing is it usually four and five [places] that gives us state [titles], but we’re nine deep," Wyant marveled. "It was such a dominant race, if you took out first and second, we’d still have won the meet."
Meanwhile, the boys team was busy making its own statement. They beat 3A rival Judge for the first time in school history and established themselves as the second team in the division behind Cedar.
"It was a boost to beat Judge for once," Wyant said.
The boys should also continue to improve. Wyant said that some guys had an off day on Saturday and others continue to rise in the standings after each race.
"The guys look good. Second in stat — we’re proud of that. We’ve never been that high," Wyant said. "They are a strong team.’
The coaching staff is also well aware that the team is not at its peak. With a few weeks still separating the Miners from state, it is paramount that the runners don’t peak too soon. The team went out on a grueling run two days before the BYU race, just to ensure they wouldn’t hit their high point on Saturday.
"That’s our strong point. Park City always has been able to train them right and peak when we want them to peak," Wyant said.
The time to peak will come at state, which, after the performance in the Autumn Classic, means that the sky is the limit for the Miners.
With control of the state well in hand, the win should also move the Miners up in the national rankings. Previously listed as 10th in the southwest, beating Mountain Crest and Davis, both of whom were ranked higher than Park City, should put the Miners among the top 20 teams in the nation.
The Miners will have another opportunity to bolster their national spot on Friday at the Murray Invitational. According to Wyant, Murray and the Autumn Classic are the two biggest races in the region. The difference will be that now the Miners are a known powerhouse and Wyant expects them to run with the proverbial target on their backs. Wyant says that even as Kahn and himself continue to strategize with their runners, so too do the others teams. Still, individual runners and teams to beat have been identified and the Miners should challenge for first once again.
The Murray Invitational will begin at 3 p.m. at Murray Park on Friday, Sept. 15.
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