Park City High School Cross Country prepares for its first race at Sugarhouse
Park City High School has stripped off its weathered track and rolled it into a corner, leaving 400m of plain concrete to await resurfacing. The school’s distance team will need renovation as well, after shedding its legends and rivals. Coaches Jeff Wyant and Steve Cuttitta said they’ve found the right materials.
"We’re not going to rebuild," Cuttitta said. "We’re going to reload."
The boys’ team lost Ben Saarel, a two-time cross-country state champion and Utah’s record-holder in the 800m, 1600m and one-mile track events, to the University of Colorado. Third-place girls State-finisher Annie Orr and fourth-place finisher Ali Walker also graduated.
Wyant isn’t about to give into nostalgia. "Losing Ben actually opens it up for the new guys," he said. "It gives them an opportunity to succeed at a level they couldn’t when Ben was here."
Wyant and Cuttitta have shifted their focus to young runners who stockpiled miles throughout their sophomore and junior years. They hope to emerge as this year’s state contenders.
Senior Kyle Beling leads the boys’ team. He finished State last year in 29th place with a 3-mile time of 16:44.
Senior Colby Judd and Junior Wesly Miller trail Beling. Judd set a 5K personal record of 17:10 several weeks ago—in the middle of the Deseret News 10k. He hopes to shave that to under 16:30 this season, and secure a top-10 state finish. Ultimately, he wants to travel to California for the Footlocker Nationals.
"I’ve been getting a lot of miles in," Judd said. "We’ve been doing ten, 12, 13 mile runs."
Last year, Judd ran a 17:44 three-mile at Region. Moving into track season, he broke the five-minute mile mark, a promising milestone for junior distance athletes.
Miller, who started running for fun as a sophomore, clocked a 17:37 three-mile time in his first year. He led Park City’s runners through the Deseret News race, cruising at just under a 5:41 mile pace.
"Last year I was just running to run. I wasn’t really competitive," he said. "This year I want to win State with the team."
For the girls, Senior Maddie Criscione will run her first Park City cross-country season this fall. Last spring, she transferred from Judge, where she ran 18:32 at State and finished Region with a time of 18:11. After switching to one of Judge’s Region competitors, she rarely finishes a workout or long run without Alyssa Snyder and Sophie MacDonald.
"They’re just the most amazing girls," she said. "It’s such a team environment here."
The girls hope to prolong their hegemony over State, where last year, MacDonald ran 19:01 and Synder 18:31. At 10 of the last 11 meets—all but the 2007 contest—the girls conquered 3A.
The boys haven’t scored a State victory since 2008, with a team that few of Park City’s current runners can picture. Cuttitta said this summer, he feels encouraged by "the boys’ resurgence."
"The boys are an unknown," Cuttitta said. "But we have a chance."
The Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) divisional realignment, which occurs every two years, mixes up Park City’s 3A competition. Desert Hills and Pineview will challenge the boys’ team, replacing state champion Ogden. Wyant hopes for an easy girls race against Cedar.
Neighboring rival Wasatch advanced to 4A. Wyant said that shouldn’t matter much. Park City takes Region and advances to State almost every year. The girls’ team has swept the field—placing all seven runners in the top slots—more than once.
"Region to us is a formality," Wyant said.
Summer training piles on about 30 to 50 miles each week, to build an aerobic base for faster workouts preceding State. Both boys and girls complete a long run on Monday, Cuttitta said, followed by two days of weight training and recovery runs and two speed workouts. Miller said a recent interval workout, two miles at 10:55 followed by a five-minute rest period and a 5:05 mile, felt good.
"We’re not increasing intensity. We’re increasing mileage," Cuttitta said. "Right now most of these guys are just building up."
The team plans a time trial on Aug. 19 to select its seven Varsity runners. From there, the fastest times at the last meet determine the Varsity roster, which shifts throughout the season.
Park City will run its first races on Aug. 22 at Sugarhouse Park. The home meet is scheduled for Oct. 4 on the team’s home course at Round Valley. Region, planned for Oct. 15, will also come home this year.
Wyant will start laying the foundations for a solid State performance at the August meet in Sugarhouse, before school begins. "The goal is just to let the kids see the State course," he said. "As always, we focus on State."
Making a statement
2012 3A State Cross Country times for the returners on Park City’s distance team
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