Geberkidane holds on late, American Fork finds a way

Cerake Gerberkidane built an early lead that would wither some in the final mile of the race, but not enough to wrest the individual title out of his hands. Photo by Alan Versaw.

It wasn't American Fork's best-ever race. But it didn't need to be.

For Timo Mostert's harriers, a result plagued with sickness and played out in less-than-dazzling fashion was more than enough to advance them to Nike Cross Nationals. In the next two week's they'll have time to get healthy, refocus, and set up to defend or improve upon their #2 finish from 2012.

Fork's lead runner Connor McMillan came to Saturday's starting line a little under the weather. McMillan, a legitimate title contender going into the race, finished 16th in 15:55. 

But, great teams have ways of recovering when a key individual isn't firing on all cylinders. American Fork is a great team.

Zac Jacklin's late surge put him atop the American Fork finishers. Photo by Alan Versaw.

In this case, Zac Jacklin stepped up to the lead role for the Cavemen, finishing third in 15:31. Behind McMillan were freshman Casey Clinger (the top finishing freshman in the race) in 25th at 16:01, senior Spencer Herzog at 16:19, and junior Tyler Bell in 16:26. That stopped the American Fork scoring at 111 points, allowing the Cavemen to turn around and take a glance at what was happening behind them.

What they saw behind them was a familiar site, but not necessarily an expected site.

All season long, Corbin Talley's Davis Darts have preached the homily of slow, steady, progress. With a month between the state meet and NXR-SW, Davis's patience moved moved them forward over a large stretch of ground. And it was show time for Davis on Saturday. The rest of the field barely knew what hit them.

Led by senior Skylar Williams and juniors Stockton Smith and Josh Ward, Davis scored 169 to claim the second automatic berth to Nike Cross Nationals. This isn't the first time American Fork and Davis have paired up for early-December trips to Portland. In fact, it's becoming more the exception than the rule.

Third place came down to a tie-breaker between Mountain Vista and Ogden, with Colorado's top team taking the decision by 1.5 seconds at the sixth man. Carson Hart keeps the hopes alive for an extended season for the Golden Eagles. For now, though, it's a full week of waiting on pins and needles for Jonathan Dalby's crew. There is no known device that will make the clock tick faster.

As American Fork won the team title, so pre-race favorite Cerake Geberkidane won the individual title. It was undoubtedly less than Geberkidane's finest race of the season, but it was plenty enough to win.

For the first two miles of the race, the only question seemed to be how much gap Geberkidane could open on a field helpless to maintain the chase. Geberkidane went through the mile at 4:38 and was already about 10 seconds up on a fast-fading field. 

Whether due to fatigue or some other factor, however, Utah's Connor Mantz would erode most of Geberkidane's lead before the finish line. By the time Geberkidane broke the tape, his lead had dwindled to just under six seconds, 15:17 to 15:22. Nine seconds after Mantz crossed, it was a very tight order between Zac Jacklin, Andrew Brewer, and Mike Buckley--all of Utah. Bailey Roth of Colorado, also in the same cluster, snared to final NXN individual qualifier in sixth. Jacklin, Brewer, Buckley, and Roth all finished within a second of one another at about 15:32.

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