Grant Gardner added a very good track season to his outstanding cross country season from the fall and leads a very talented Springville team into this fall's fray.
A few days ago, I published an early look at how NXR-SW is shaping up for the girls this fall. It's time now to shine the same light on the boys.
And, I'll use the same layout. We'll begin with a look at how each of last year's top 10 teams at NXR-SW are looking heading into the new season. Then, on a second page, we will broaden the discussion to include other teams that could be making runs at top-10 kind of positions at NXR-SW this fall.
2016's Top Ten
1. American Fork - Nobody, absolutely nobody, expects American Forks cross country fortunes to fall off the edge of the earth this fall. But, you don't lose a top three like American Fork lost to graduation this spring without some impact to your team. If you're a Caveman fan, though, you have to be encouraged by the fact that Carson Clinger, Dalton Brems, Luke Grundvig, and Aaron Steed each will be back as seniors this fall and each ran better than 10 minutes for 3200 meters this spring. Cole Phillippi is another who figures as a strong scoring possibility for American Fork this fall. By American Fork standards, it's probably a rebuilding year, but most teams around the Southwest region would be delighted to be bringing back a team this solid.
2. Davis - The Darts were rocked by departures this spring and summer. Not only did Davis lose seven of their top eight cross country runners (based on 3 Mile times) from last fall, but Coach Corbin Talley left to take the head coach position at Weber State University as well. So, there are reasons to wonder how competitive this team will be this fall. As much as American Fork lost, Davis lost more--much more. Seth Stromberg returns as the lead guy. Under a new coaching regime, it's anyone's guess how the other guys who have been developing in the program respond. One bright spot already is that Derek Thornton, who will be a senior this fall, returns with sub-10 credentials in the 3200.
3. Springville - Continuing the theme of losses, Springville lost their cross country coach over the winter. To Springville's advantage, the team already began working with the new regime in track season and saw some positive results. Grant Gardner, Brandon Garnica, and Caleb Garnica will all be back this fall, and all ran sub-10 for the 3200. Devin Pancake didn't take many 3200 opps but did run 4:26.x twice this spring for 1600 meters. It seems pretty safe to say that, despite the upheaval, Springville should be very much back in the hunt this fall.
4. Timpanogos - The wheels came off just a little toward the end of the season for Timpanogos. Midseason, they seemed a lock to win their classification at the state meet and advance to NXN. Neither happened. It remains to be seen how that impacts this year's team. Team leadership looks to fall to Brennan Benson. Ben Berlin will be another experienced leader with this fall's team. Nobody else on the team (or at least nobody who is coming back this fall), however, broke 4:35 in the 1600 or 10:00 in the 3200 this spring. That should be cause for concern. It will be an uphill battle for the A-Wolves to get back to the level of last fall, and especially the mid season level.
5. Olympus - Olympus stunned a lot of people--while others claim they saw it coming--at last fall's Utah state meet. The stun was gone, however, by Nike Cross Regionals and Olympus could only replicate the magic to the level of a 5th-place finish at NXR-SW. Mind you, in the Southwest region, 5th is a very solid team, but it's also the first team guaranteed to stay home from Nike Cross Nationals. It was a decent spring season, though, for Olympus. Returning seniors Roberto Porras, Jima Rout, and Ethan Hoenig all ran 9:53 or better for 3200 meters. Sophomore-to-be Jackson Dymond showed some serious promise on the track as well. You don't want to get caught overlooking this team this fall.
6. Mountain Vista - The first non-Utah team in the bundle had a solid track season for several returning runners. Carter Dillon figures to step into the #1 role for Vista Nation this fall. His track season speaks volumes about his readiness. Filling in around him figure to be Caden Foster, Shayan Zarrin, Weston Hart, and Ethan Rouse. It's a huge plus of Parker Mackay can bounce back this fall. Mackay was absent from track season and a lot of cross country as well last fall.
7. Palmer Ridge - It would be an egregious understatement to suggest Palmer Ridge was disappointed with their regional finish last fall. On top of that, they graduated an important core of seniors along with turning over their coaching regime. The coaching turnover was mostly effected between cross country and track season, though, and the team--including underclassmen--responded well in track season. The Bears have four returning sub-10s in Ryan Matson, Max Herebic, Kieran Nay, and Brandon Hippe. Alex Murphy sticks mostly to shorter distances in track but should be penciled in as a big contributor in cross country as well. Despite the turnover, this team is not hurting.
8. Lone Peak - Well, back to Utah... Lone Peak has some strong returning talent, but it's the paucity of depth that's the concern here. There are but four returning sub-5s from track this spring and (unless some important results are missing) only two returning sub-11s from track. Justin Hartshorn, Craik Evans, and Josh Ericksen are the proven quantities. Others will have to step up. For now, Lone Peak's #8 from last year is vulnerable.
9. Monarch - Colorado's 5A state champions ran low on gas somewhere between State and NXR-SW last fall. Ninth is a little below where this team should have finished. The Coyotes return some solid runners in Charlie Perry, William Dixon, and Isaac Russo (Perry and Russo are returning sub-10s--Perry by a lot--and Dixon stuck to shorter distances but could reasonably be projected as a sub-10 had he run the 3200), but there are also some very big spots to be filled. Monarch's is a season that could easily turn one way or the other. Monarch could be back at the same level this fall if things go well, or they could fall off and likely fall out of the top ten picture. Watch this team carefully in September to see how things unfold.
10. Desert Hills - Desert Hills has one returning sub-10 in Bryson King. Add Ethan Ashby as a returning sub-4:40 in the 1600. The story here, though, appears to be mostly one of massive losses to graduation. It will be rough for Desert Hills to get back into the top 10 this fall. Not impossible, but very challenging.