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Tough field: State cross country meet features top runners

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Defending 5A state champ Brian McKenna of Viewmont High will be back to defend his title at Wednesday's state meet.

Defending 5A state champ Brian McKenna of Viewmont High will be back to defend his title at Wednesday’s state meet.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

Several state medalists will be back to defend their titles during the Utah high school cross country championships set for Sugar House Park on Wednesday. In fact, most of last year's top runners are in the competition, which begins with 1A girls at 11 a.m. and continues through the 5A boys' race at 4:30 p.m. Races are held every half-hour, alternating between girls' and boys' divisions.

Individually, Viewmont senior Brian McKenna returns in 5A. He held off Jordan's Jared Bienlien last year in a thrilling final, and Bienlien is back as well. Seniors Brett Kotter of Alta, Miles Batty of Jordan and Josh Adams of Davis are also in the race, making up perhaps one of the most competitive individual fields in recent years for the 5A title. Adams has already beaten McKenna once this year, his only loss in the last 14 months. Others to watch include Justin Dickamore of Fremont and Austin Brewer and Devan Antczak of Bingham.

In 4A boys, it should be a battle between Orem's Tim Rowberry and Mountain View's Alden Bahr for medalist honors, although Taylor Gardner of Springville, Orem's Race Ostler and Eric Sabin, and Mountain View's Spence Everson and Justin Leavitt could also figure in the top five. Timpview's James Jensen, Provo's Steve Cowles, American Fork's John Bell, Zach Hallows and Taylor Hansen of Woods Cross, and Murray High's Colton McComb and Dan Willes will also contend for medals.

Defending champ Patrick Smyth of Judge Memorial is the prohibitive favorite in 3A. Smyth has been outstanding again this fall. Teammate Nik Hlady is also back. The biggest challengers will be Ogden's Brett Hales, Alex Way and Tespo Paul Sethunha, Cedar's Jeremy Johnson and Charles Hart, Tanner Chadaz and Wade Hirschi of Bear River, Morgan's Zack Taylor, and Lehi's Daniel Urry.

There will be a new 2A medalist this year, as North Summit's Johnny Rodrigues graduated. Top contenders include Juan Diego's Kyle Jarrett and Danny Crnkovich, Juab's Royce Orme, Chris Bossart of Rowland Hall-St. Mark's, Jordan Snyder of North Summit and Drake Mason of Richfield. In 1A boys, St. Joseph's David Borgeson, and Kenny Eltzroth of Layton Christian Academy are the top contenders, along with St. Joe's Matt Trujillo and Andrew Choffel.

In the team competition, Davis, Jordan and Fremont appear to be the teams to beat, though Bingham is always tough in 5A. The 4A team race looks very interesting, with Mountain View and Orem most likely the top two finishers. Provo will be strong, and Timpanogos and Woods Cross could surprise some teams as well.

Cedar and Judge Memorial are the favorites in 3A boys, both returning three scoring runners from a year ago. Ogden, Lehi and Park City will also figure prominently in the race for gold. Richfield, Juan Diego and defending champ North Summit are the likely leaders in 2A, while St. Joseph, Piute and Bryce Valley, again, should battle for the 1A title.

The battle for 5A girls' medalist should be a dandy. Defending champ Kit Zeigle of Bingham is back, but she will face tough competition from Fremont's Cassie Ricks and Alexis Meyer, Davis senior Shaylee Marler, and Erin Fuller of Jordan. But Fremont could also have top five finishers from Katie Chugg and Lindsey Slater.

In 4A girls, defending champ Nichole Torgersen returns but is still coming back from an injury and has shown steady improvement as the season has wound down. Murray's top runner is actually senior Ashley Evans, who will be challenged by Mountain View's Heidi Houle, Erica Martineau and Sarah Yingling; Katie Bowen and Allie Scott of Lone Peak, Trisha Wright of Woods Cross, Kate Harline and Lauren Stratton of Orem, and Timpangos' Vanessa Hawkins.

Samantha Gaffney of Judge Memorial is the favorite in 3A. The junior won this title last year and has been stellar again this fall. Holly Simeon and Rosie Brennan of Park City, Cedar's Celeste Miller and Kindal Ericson; Ogden's McKenzie Cook, Danielle Nestoryak and Tori Arneson; and Ben Lomond's Angeline Sargent and Shanae Russell are among the top medal contenders in this division.

The 2A girls' race should also be close, with Teala Orme of Rowland Hall, Juan Diego's Morgan Clark and Lindsey Nielsen; Shayna Tahy and Catharine Hurst of San Juan, Riverton's Alisa Sheffer, and Juab's Aubree Nielson contending for gold. In 1A, Valley's Lindy Heaton, Wayne's Shanda Durfey and Monique Ellett, Waterford's Liz Calder and St. Joe's Julie Laure are medal contenders.

In team competition, Fremont is a lock to win the 5A girls' title, coming in with a national ranking and one of the best girls' teams in state history. Mountain View, Orem and Provo will battle in 4A, Park City should hold off Cedar, Ogden and Judge Memorial in 3A, San Juan and Juab will contend with defending champ Richfield in 2A, and Wayne will battle St. Joseph's for the 1A crown.

Champions are crowned just a few minutes after the completion of each race, which finish on the track at Highland High School.