After finishing second at the Region 8 championships, the Park City girl’s cross-country team prepares for state meet
Entering the Region 8 girls cross-country championships last Friday, Park City head coach Steve Cuttitta had a plan for his runners.
All season long, Springville had dominated the region, so for the championships, Cuttitta wanted his girls to come out fast and go down fighting.
And that’s exactly what the Miners did when Park City took home second place with 67 points, taking four of the top 14 spots and pushing the defending region champs to the limit. Although the Red Devils won the race with 20 points scored and five of the top seven finishers, Cuttitta said the race was much closer than the final times indicated.
“We knew it was going to be tough but we wanted to prove that we weren’t going to be afraid of them,” Cuttitta said. “We were going to take our best shot and then just live with the results. The plan was to just push them (Springville) because we knew we would qualify for state, so we wanted to just see where we stood.”
In order to take down Springville, Cuttitta wanted his girls to force the Springville runners to get out of their comfort zones and play catch up. This strategy worked for most of the race until the depth of the Red Devils took over.
“We threw the first punch and really made them (Springville) respond, which as a coach I couldn’t be more proud of,” Cuttitta said. “I’m really proud of the girls, and how aggressive they were and showed the willingness to take that chance. They stuck together until the end and didn’t allow themselves to be run out of the race.”
Leading the way for the Miners, much as she’s done all season, was sophomore Elena Grissom, finishing third in a time of 18 minutes and 31 seconds. Cuttitta called Grissom, the top sophomore finisher in the race, the “ringleader” of the Park City runners to jump out to the fast lead.
Freshman Ava Coccaro took home ninth overall in a time of 18:40.9 while seniors Sydney LaPine (18:52.9) and Mackenna Doilney (19:05.1) finished in 13th and 14th overall, respectively.
“Sydney and Mackenna are our senior leaders and both ran very smart, very tough races,” Cuttitta said. “Their leadership has been paramount to our success this season as they’ve been great leaders all year. They’ve really set the stage for our younger runners to understand the importance of the races and we are seeing it all come together now.”
Freshmen Lotte DeJager (19:41.4) and Erika Skylling (19:44.1) and junior Samantha Herman (19:44.6) all finished 25th through 27th, rounding out the top seven runners for the Miners.
With four of his top six finishers all being underclassmen, Cuttitta acknowledges the youth of his team and how that can be a disadvantage but refused to make excuses.
“With the underclassmen, you see a huge time gap from when they started to when they finish, and I think we are seeing that from them,” Cuttitta said. “Although they’re young, they’ve raced the whole season so they’re tough and experienced. You don’t get a head start for being freshman, so I wanted them to just go out and compete, and that’s what they did.”
Park City has one more race upcoming, the UHSAA 5A state championships on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at Sugar House Park with the starting time set for 10 a.m.
According to Cuttitta, Springville is state champion contender, along with Farmington, who he says has a “great team.” Other contenders are Skyline and Mountain View, which Cuttitta put on the same tier as the Miners.
“Everybody should be chasing Farmington and Springville, but we are right there on that second tier behind both of those teams,” Cuttita said.
That still hasn’t’ deterred Cuttitta and the belief of the Miners, with all of them believing they have just as good a shot as any to take home a state title.
“I told the girls that people can get sick, hurt or peak at the wrong time so you never know what can happen,” Cuttitta said. “But we have to be there in case somebody falters, we have to be there to take advantage. … We need some help but if the others team don’t run their best, we need to run our best to give ourselves a shot.”
Park City plans to implement a similar strategy to the one they employed at the region championships. Cuttitta wants his girls to start out fast and dare the other teams to keep pace, try to get their opponents out of rhythm while staying within themselves.
“We are going to run a very mature race again when state comes around, no doubt about it,” Cuttitta said. “We are going to throw the first punch and make people beat us. We are not just going to hand it to them and run behind these teams and hope we catch up. There’s a psychological part of running and we want to send a message to let them know we are here for business.”
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The Miners are truly a brotherhood, relying on one another to help their teammates go farther. After a few players missed last year’s 4A state semifinal game, this year’s group made sure those guys got the chance to experience this year’s semifinals. When injuries last week had the chance to derail the season, unsung heroes stepped up for the win. Now No. 1 Park City faces No. 2 Sky View in the 4A state title game on Friday at Rice Eccles Stadium.