One expected to win, one didn't. In the end, they both returned to Utah County with state championships following Wednesday's cross country finals at Sugarhouse Park.
Mountain View's Ilene Dixon, a star for the Lady Bruins' soccer team who had never run the course before, blew away all challengers to capture the 5A title. And Provo sophomore Kassi Anderson, who stated a month ago her plan to win the 4A, accomplished just that.The other three state champs crowned included Delta's Cynthia Losee in 3A, Elizabeth Oliver of Grantsville in 2A and Wayne's Sarah Ellett in 1A. Team titles went to Bingham, Mountain Crest, Cedar City, Grantsville and Wayne.
Dixon never ran cross country until this season, her junior year. She took up the sport last summer and ran a few 5K events but didn't come out until coach Dave Houle and her supportive teammates encouraged her to try. She has never run a team workout this year, instead concentrating on soccer, where she is among the Bruins' top players. And in fact, she almost didn't run Wednesday because of a mild concussion she suffered in soccer practice on Monday.
"Ilene's incredible, to come out and run the way she did today with that injury," Houle said, adding, "and I bet she didn't even talk about it."
She didn't, but instead let her running do the talking. She said her teammates "push me so hard, they're so good. All I wanted to do today was run my hardest and see what happened." What happened was Dixon besting every other "full time" prep runner in the state, beating second-place finisher Laura Zeigle of Bingham by 21 seconds.
But the Miners edged Mountain View 35-36 to end the Bruins' string of five straight state titles and 13 of the last 14. Had this been a dual meet between just those two schools, they would have tied at 28 points.
Anderson knew she could kick her way to the 4A title if she remained close to the lead runner at the end. She did, sprinting the final 40 yards to edge Fremont's Heidi Bouwhuis by just over a second. The talented sophomore, last year's third-place finisher, waited until the race reached the track at Highland High to take the lead, much as she has done all season.
"I figure if I can hang on to the end, I've got a chance to win," said Anderson, who finished the year unbeaten in Utah.
Sheena Curtis of Mountain Crest finished third, followed by Nan Evans of Bountiful and Stefani Clark of East. But the Mustangs edged the Leopards by five points for the team title in somewhat of a surprise.
Cedar placed five runners among the top 15 to win the 3A title, led by Alisha Bezanson in fourth. Losee held off Misha Everett of Pine View to win the race. The Redmen placed runners in 11th, 12th, 13th and 15th to easily beat Pine View.
Oliver took the 2A title and led her team to victory with an eight-second win over Monticello's Haley Boyle. Grantsville had five runners in the top 12 and defeated Monticello by seven points.
The Ellett family of sisters and cousins - led by Sarah in first, Nancy in second and Suzanne in fifth - won the A1 crown for Wayne with a perfect team score of 15, the lowest possible in cross country. Only Milford's Nisha Livingston, who placed third, kept Wayne from sweeping the top seven spots.