WOODS CROSS — Woods Cross cross country runners want a championship. Co-coach Sam Wood says it's there for the taking.
"We have a chance to do well" among their 4-A peers, said Wood, both cross country and track and field co-coach with Judy Allen.
In addition, "we'll be competitive" with the elite 5-A schools, he said. "We'll be competitive with anyone."
Are you listening, Mountain View High? The Bruins, of course, are perennially among the nation's top high school programs. USA Today, among other media, has ranked Mountain View in the top five. Though the Orem school is "the top cross country team in the state," concedes Wood, victories only count in the athletic arena and not in the media.
Woods Cross is anxious to roll its cross country dice, put-up-or-shut-up or whatever cliche you want to use. As a team, the Wildcats "have a very good group coming back" from "a great cross country team last year," said Wood.
They only lost one to graduation, with seven of eight of their best returning. Compound that with "great summer training and we're state contenders for the first time. We're looking forward to the season. It's really a joy to coach them."
The 'Cats first meet is the Grass Relay at American Fork High Aug. 27 The 2-miler begins on the school track and loops around the school. Wood says that while cross country races are usually close to three miles, they're rarely over 5K (3.1 mile.).
This first race of the season is mainly for time or getting experience, the coach said. It's similar to a preseason football or basketball game.
With 4A re-alignment switching WX and Bountiful to the same region as the Weber and Cache county schools, the road trips will be longer. Initially, there will be odd region matchups, but the new rivalries "will be very competitive," said Wood. "It won't be hatred or anything like that."
Currently, WX's best runner among the girls appears to be Trisha Wright, while Zach Hall, Taylor Hansen and Stephen Hunter lead the boys.
In last month's Deseret Morning News/KJZZ-TV 10K, Hallows ran a 34:38, Hunter in 36:28, Hansen in 37:16 and Wright at 39:08. Wright finished seventh among girls 15-18, and 147th among all women.
Hall, Hansen and Hunter were 17th (53rd), 35th (93rd) and 42nd (109th), respectively. These times are gun, or official times, not chip (actual) time. Chip time is taken from when a runner actually crosses the starting line, which may take a few minutes in races where hundreds or more have entered.
Wright is backed up by Sarah Edwards and Janice Wilkinson, "who are pushing Trisha," said Wood. "They're very good runners and have a good chance to do well individually."
The girls don't have the depth the boys do, but they train hard and could emerge from the pack of competing schools, he said.
Cody Despain, Brad Bishop, Chris Brown, Dallas Green and Griffin Hansen (younger brother of Taylor Hansen) "push the other guys," said the coach.
Wood estimates the team will "end up with 50-60 runners," who are mostly boys. "It helps to have a good group of hard workers. It makes everyone better."
The coach lauds Mountain View's tradition.
"If you get the tradition going, then you're growing the program and pushing people to get better. Talent has something to do with it."
The coach believes the 'Cats successful cross country program "is a tribute to the kids. Lots of schools and programs respect the way we conduct ourselves," he said. "They respect us, because we respect them."