Twice as nice
October 24, 2008
It was no secret that the Park City High School girls’ cross-country team had a pretty strong shot at the 3A state championship title. Shoot, they have been ranked nationally for weeks. So when they literally ran way with the victory Wednesday at the Utah High School 3A State Cross-Country Championships at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake, no one was surprised.
But the Park City boys’ surprised themselves, their coaches and the entire state yesterday by handily claiming the 3A state championship as well.
Make no mistake, the boys are not slow by any means. They were definitely contenders for the title. But they were also contenders last year and barely missed winning by a few points to Ogden. This year, Ogden returned the exact same group of guys, so Park City wasn’t taking anything for granted. After last year’s disappointment, the boys decided to refocus their efforts, beginning training in late spring rather than late summer when the season started.
"They really worked hard after a disappointing season last year," Park City assistant coach Brad Osguthorpe said.
But this year, it was all Park City.
"We knew it would be our year," said Park City runner Carson Fugal. "We knew we were not out of the picture."
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Head coach Jeff Wyant instructed the team to focus solely on Ogden. Sure, there were other individual runners in the mix, but as a team the Tigers were the ones to beat. The boys did just that and it worked.
The Miners were led by senior Cameron Edwards, who has been finishing behind Fugal all season. On Wednesday, Edwards came out on fire quickly becoming one of the frontrunners and maintaining that position the entire race. Ogden’s Jacob Barton won the race, but Edwards took third, breaking the 16-minute mark for the first time in his career with a time of 15 minutes and 57.8 seconds.
"We knew he had it in him," Wyant said.
Fugal was right behind him in fourth with a time of 16:02.8, followed by Derek Alcorn in sixth with the rest of the team not far behind. It was team strength that gave the Miners the edge they needed. Park City was aware that Ogden had looked susceptible at its region championship and the Tigers seemed to struggle with more issues at the state meet. Then Miners took advantage, with the top three Edwards, Fugal and Alcorn — all setting records with their finish times at state.
"We were pretty angry at Ogden for beating us last year," Edwards said. "We knew it was going to be pretty close. We left it all out there."
"They ran the perfect race," Wyant said.
Ogden took second in the team competition and Canyon View took third
Alcorn, who moved to Park City from Spokane, Wash., this year may have been the most surprised of the Miners’ team. Alcorn, a cross-country skier, only runs as cross-training. Now, armed with a state championship, he couldn’t be happier.
"It feels kind of surreal," Alcorn said. "I ran at State in Washington last year and I was 30th. To be sixth is amazing. It hasn’t set in yet."
Both Edwards and Fugal said Alcorn may have been the X-factor for their team. Although they still could have won without his score, both Wyant and the athletes said he was the missing piece that the team needed.
"It’s really been an incredible year," Wyant said.
Fugal will be a senior next year and has his eye on moving up the individual ranks. He would like to win the race, but Ogden’s Barton will be a senior next year as well, so Fugal is trying to stay humble.
"I’m going to pin a picture up of him on my wall," he said with a devilish grin, but then laughed. "Naw, Jake’s is awesome."
Junior Gillian Gorelik led the Park City girls as she has all season. She started out at the front of the pack and was soon neck-and-neck with Ogden’s Sarah Callister. Callister broke away about halfway through the race. Gorelik did her best to keep Callister in sight, but couldn’t catch her. Gorelik still managed to set a personal and school record, finishing with a time of 18:30.6.
"It was really hard," Gorelik said. "I was happy with second. I never thought I’d be this close."
"She’s really become the team leader," Wyant said.
Right behind her was Ali Williams, who has steadily risen from the No. 6 spot on the team to second in the last few races. Wednesday was no exception as Williams turned in a smooth performance to take third place with a time of 18:54.2.
"I felt so good," she said. "I think we all looked really good. It’s our last race. We wanted to give it all we had."
"She’s a really talented girl," Wyant added.
The rest of Park City girls also showed why they are nationally ranked, coming in not long after Gorelik and Williams. Still, the team hadn’t competed against Ogden or their other rival, Cedar City, since the beginning of the season and didn’t celebrate until the victory was firmly in hand. Cedar took second in the girls’ race and Ogden finished third.
"Our team being No. 1 is an amazing feeling," Gorelik said. "We’re the team to beat and that feels great."
The Park City girls’ team is so talented that it could have lost a runner or two out of the top seven and it probably still would have won with talent extending all the way down to the ninth- fastest runner,
Ogden still went home went some hardware. Barton and Callister led both races both a wide margin, giving them the individual state titles. Park City, friendly with the team off the field, sang their praises, saying that both turned in amazing races.
"Sarah deserved it. She killed it," Gorelik said after her race. "She had the race of her life."
In fact, it may have been the Ogden front runners who helped the Miners have such record-setting day. All of Park City’s top runners said they were focused on not only winning the championship but trying to chase the leaders, which helped them improve their times.
Park City’s Elizabeth Guiney, who took sixth place overall, went away with her own personal award, winning Academic All-State honors at the meet.
After the trophies were passed out, the Miners headed to Sugarhouse Park pond where all of the Park City coaches were thrown into the murky duck pond as part of a tradition the team honors every time it wins the state title.