With a lot of returners, Park City is ready for the upcoming season
For most teams in high school, a new season means a new team. But for Park City cross country coach Steve Cuttitta, the 2019 season returns a combined 13 of his top 14 runners from last year’s boys and girls teams.
“Last year was a rebuilding year for us, that’s for sure,” Cuttitta, in his 12th year coaching at Park City, said. “But I believe we are already better now than we were when we finished last year. …With what I’ve seen throughout summer training, who we bring back and the new runners, I like where we are right now.”
The girls team returns all of its top seven runners from last year, but senior Jillian Perry’s battles with stress fractures in her shin could be troublesome.
Perry was Park City’s top runner all of last year, running in four meets and finishing first for the Miners in all of them. Her top time of 19 minutes 23.6 seconds on the season would’ve placed her 22nd at state had she run in the meet, vaulting Park City from its 10th place finish to sixth.
“Without a doubt our top runner is Perry, if she’s healthy,” Cuttitta said. “She hasn’t been able to run yet but we are hopeful to get her back and some point because it would be a big boost to our team.”
Among the top returners for the girls are sophomore Elena Grissom, the Miners’ top runner at last year’s state championship by finishing 26th, junior Sam Herman and senior Sydney LaPine, an essential piece of the team according to Cuttitta. (Editor’s note: Sydney LaPine is an intern for The Park Record.)
“She’s been on varsity for four years so she knows what it takes to compete and what’s expected,” Cuttitta said. “She’s a great leader running wise and performance wise because she’s been there before. She’s someone the other girls can talk with, especially the younger girls.”
Cuttitta anticipates two or three freshmen girls also having a prominent role on the team for a deep, competitive unit.
On the boys side, talented depth is the name of the game according to Cuttitta. Despite losing Scott McMullin to graduation, Cuttitta has total faith in six runners to lead the way this year beginning with senior Reese McGrath.
“He was our top runner for most of last year and has been a contributor on varsity since he was a sophomore,” Cuttitta said. “He had a really good summer and has been our top guy throughout the last couple months. I expect him to be our leader early on.”
Bennett Diamond came on strong at the end of last year, and should provide depth along with senior Kaleb Barnhart, junior Shane Hilton and sophomore Wes Campbell.
A potential standout resides in Will Henry, a junior who was “not fast last year,” according to Cuttitta. But Henry ran a 1:57 in the 800-meter run to take taking eighth in state last season, and when combined with his offseason work, Cuttitta expects big things.
“He’s really come a long way since last year when running for us,” Cuttitta said. “He’s really turned a corner with his training and I can see him having a big year for us.”
According to Cuttitta, blending the experience with the newcomers to make sure they get the most out of meets and practices will be difficult for both teams. Although some consider it a blessing to have so many returners on a team, complacency is what Cuttitta is guarding against.
“Our first four or five meets will be fluid and mainly about promoting healthy competition,” Cuttitta said. “If I can get the best out of my 8, 9 and 10 runners who will in return push my 5, 6, 7 runners, that competition should keep us moving forward in the right direction.”
With the obvious goal being winning both a region and state championship, Cuttitta isn’t worried about the jump up a classification to UHSSA Class 5A, saying the numbers across the divisions are “comparable.” He also doesn’t want his team looking ahead to final races of the season, instead focusing on being faster and fitter.
“If we can get fast and fit and ready to run, we’ll be competitive,” Cuttitta said. “I want to win but right now I just want to get them more fit and spend the next month and a half just training. If we do that, we’ll be in contention at the end of the year and that’s all you can ask for.”
The Miners officially begin their season Sept. 6 at the Murray Invitational. The region championships will be held Oct. 11 in Spanish Fork followed by the state championships Oct. 23 at Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City.
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