Jaiden Melendrez, Sage Ducote, and Joshua Thatcher are three big reasons you don't want to lose sight of Desert Hills in all your excitment about American Fork and Davis. Photos by Alan Versaw.
You could write a pretty credible Utah boys NXR-SW preview in any given year with only three words: American Fork, Davis. Somehow, that seems to cover a lot, but we'll try to be more comprehensive here. And, we need to be.
2014 Utah State Meet Champion: American Fork
2014 Utah State Meet Runner-Up: Well, this could be variously interpreted, so we'll give a nod each in the direction of Desert Hills, Davis, and Timpanogos.
Utah Representation at NXR-SW 2014: American Fork (1st), Davis (2nd), Timpanogos (3rd), Desert Hills (4th), Ogden (6th), Lone Peak (8th), Westlake (12th), Lehi (16th), Stansbury (18th), Alta (22nd)
The most polite way of discussing the virtual meet links above is to a) admit that not all the races in the Milesplit database are necessarily rightly labeled as 3M or 5K, and b) the small number of 5K courses that Utah uses may tend to skew those rankings a little in favor of certain teams that had lots of juniors and under running on fast 5K courses. Certainly, not all schools had that luxury.
In any case, however, American Fork doesn't come out at the top of either pile. Does that mean that, ahem, we can put a fork in American Fork? Hardly. But that, and track times from this spring, suggest that Timo Mostert's crew will need to step up more than they have had to in most recent years to retain their standing at the top of Utah. McKay Johns and Casey Clinger are two of the top three returning 3200s in Utah, but American Fork doesn't put another on that list until Joe Simmons at #23.
Davis, meanwhile, comes back loaded for Cavemen. How else are we to interpret seven returners under 10 minutes for the 3200 and another seven under 4:35 for the 1600? Look for Logan Mackay and Camren Todd out front, but this is a team that lacks for nothing in the department of depth. A very large enrollment and a charismatic and very knowledgeable coaching staff will do that for you.
But, before we get carried away about the usual suspects of Davis and American Fork, let's acknowledge that there are some other fine horses in the race.
Timpanogos returns a solid 1-2 in Will Handley and Joe Benson, but may be thinned out a little behind them, even if only temporarily.
Lehi returns a formidable trio in Connor Arnell, Ryan Raff, and Thomas Heaps.
Desert Hills returns a trio of substance of their own in Jaiden Melendrez, Joshua Thatcher, and Sage Ducote. If Spencer Ford can reprise his cross country times from last fall, make that a foursome of substance. There's a reason Desert Hills got the cover images on this article. Besides the fact that they're probably a little chapped over not getting an NXN at-large bid last fall, they just happen to be a very, very good team.
Lone Peak? Get to know the names of Adam Jensen, Zack Erickson, and Jamison Wilkes.
We could go on for a while like this for a while. Such is the status of cross country in the Beehive State. Ogden may not have the depth of some other of these teams, but they do return a potential individual titleist in Alek Parsons.
And, all of these teams with duos and trios and foursomes are licking their lips to put on display a couple of new guys who've stepped up over the summer. If you don't have guys stepping up over the summer in Utah, you may as well check things in right now. Nobody--aside from possibly Davis--in Utah could make a competitive go of it solely on backs of the guys who were running big times in track this spring.
If you can't reload, it's game over.
Yes, indeed, Utah figures to be once again the cream of the Southwest boys crop. There are at least two reasons for that. One, the other states don't have to toe the line to the standard of Davis and American Fork on a weekly basis. Two, on the whole, Utah schools draw from a much larger pool of potential athletes than the schools in any other Southwest state. Although I take both reasons as reasons of consequence, I take the first reason at the more important of the two. To borrow a cliche, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Can Utah claim six of the top eight team slots again this year as they did last year? That remains to be seen, but you can be certain that Utah will be a force to be reckoned with.