Cross country team competes at states for fifth consecutive year

Sophomore Rylee Barno runs uphill during the state cross country meet. (Photo by Sydney Tyler)

For the fifth year in a row, the cross country team competed in the state meet at Fortress Obetz stadium, Saturday, Nov. 7, with the girls and boys varsity team finishing 10th and 16th, respectively. 

Junior Claire MacDonald and senior Maria Steinke were the top two finishers on the girls team with times of 19:38.9 and 19:54.8. On the boys side, Sophomore John Laing and senior Spencer Stevenson were the top two finishers with times of 17:14.5 and 17:22.0. 

Varsity cross country coach Eric Acton said he has been impressed with this year’s team, especially with qualifying for states. 

Both teams did win the Mid-State League this season and the girls were district champs,” Acton said. “I believe this is the most talented girls team I have coached.”

Acton explained that this year’s team was different because of extensive training time, teamwork, and effort on the team. He compared the camaraderie among the team to other years, explaining that this year, the team had more traditions and higher comfort running together. 

In the week prior to the state meet, Acton said that the team tapered their workouts and sharpened their skill sets to prepare. 

“We traveled to the state meet course on Thursday to train and become familiar with the terrain, and we discussed race day strategies on Friday,” Acton said. 

Despite having to adjust to many COVID-19 protocols, Acton said the team’s success could be attributed to their strong work ethic, commitment to the team and senior leadership.

Senior Hannah Hayden said that she thought the team’s chemistry was essential to their accomplishments. 

“The key to success this season has probably been consistency because we have been training together since April,” Hayden said. 

Hayden added that she had a very close connection with the girls, as they had the same competition team last season. 

“It was really fun being on the team this year,” she said. “We all have a lot of traditions together.”

Senior Karleigh Place emphasized that it is important to progress individually in addition to making team strides, as she had qualified for the state meet individually and had a PR.

Place explained that she was not confident that the team would be able to follow through with the season due to COVID-19, but because of their hard work in smaller meets and responsibility of mask wearing, they were able to keep cross country going. 

“We were able to achieve everything we wanted to this year, even though Covid caused our regular meet season to be canceled,” Place said. 

The girl cross country team started the postseason with a first place finish at districts and a third place finish at regionals, while the boys cross country team started with a second place finish at districts and a fourth place finish at regionals, Acton said.

Sophomore John Laing said he was proud of the team. Laing’s 17:14 time was a team PR, he said. Laing added that there was a lot going through his mind during the race, hoping the boys were pacing themselves in a beneficial way.

“The big line of runners on the field before the race made me nervous,” Laing said. “I looked back and saw that we were far behind, and we had to work harder.”

Freshman Solomon McDow explained that he was impressed with the team’s success. McDow placed 93rd individually in his first state cross country meet.  

“I thought the course would be very difficult, but it ended up being pretty good, even though we had never been to this course before Thursday,” Mcdow said. 

Even without a win at states, Hayden said she is optimistic of the team after she graduates. 

“I think if the team trains together all year and they can keep it fun, they will be able to compete the best they can for the whole season,” Hayden said.