For the Bingham Miners track and field teams, it is supposed to be business as usual this season. Both girls and boys teams look to be strong favorites to win the region and contend for the state title.

However, they might be looking over their shoulders this year as upstart Riverton will be trying to hunt them down.

"It's good to be the hunted," says Bingham head coach Jeff Arbogast. "They've got enough kids out there to mount a challenge."

Still, the Miners are the consensus pick to win Region 3 and to possibly give Davis, Mountain View and Viewmont a serious run for their money at the boys Class 5A state meet.

Riverton, on the other hand, is very excited to be mentioned in the same sentence with the dominant Miners. It's taken awhile for the south valley school to generate a strong team, but it appears that they have arrived.

"We're excited about it," says head coach Brent Hawkins. "It's been kind of fun because we think we have a chance on both sides (girls/boys)," he said. As for the large task of taking down rival Bingham, the second-year coach thinks his team has a shot, but they need show improvement.

"The rivalry is fun . . . but we're going to have to get a better effort from them (Riverton) to make it happen," Hawkins added.

The rest of region play is a bit scrambled. Copper Hills, Kearns and Hunter have their own strengths and weaknesses. Right now they appear too one-dimensional and unable to compete with Bingham and Riverton. West Jordan has been working on multiple coaching changes over the past few years. New coach Mark Nielson says that the team is too young to compete right now but may regain their stride in a couple of seasons.

The girls' situation looks very similar. Bingham, Riverton and Copper Hills all have strong teams, but the Miners depth could sway things in their favor.

Distance runner Kim Quinn is only a junior, but she's the best in the region and one of the top milers in the state. The Bingham sprinters are loaded with talented seniors and juniors that dominate this group.

The Riverton girls are ready for a break-out season. The team is full of experienced runners and throwers. Expect them to push Bingham for the region title.

Copper Hills looks to be a solid third. They don't seem to have the balance of Bingham and Riverton.

Kearns, Hunter and West Jordan will struggle to find their way. They face rebuilding, low numbers and have no way to counter the depth of the other three schools.

Here's a team-by-team look from Region 3.

BINGHAM: The boys are as good as anybody in Class 5A. They have won three state titles in track and field and they have a chance this year. Strong in the distance and sprinting events, the Miners' weak link could be their throwers. Senior Zach Cook is the boys' top hurdler and long jumper. Rich Hansen is a standout in the 100 and 20 meters. Devan Antczak runs the 800 and 1,600 meters. The distance runners for Bingham will make it hard for most teams to compete with the Miners. Expect the boys to edge Riverton in a tight region race. The girls team may have it a little easier. Sprinters Chay Hill, Jessica Nielson and Chelsea Baker give the Miners great depth. Nielson won the 400 meters at the "Super Meet" last month. Kim Quinn won the Simplot Games back in February. She's the top distance runner in Region 3. Jessica Palmer rounds out a strong group of distance runners, probably the strongest in the region. Thrower Jade Ewell completes a very balanced girls team. They should win the region and be a force at the state meet.

RIVERTON: They have Bingham's attention and for good reason, too. The Silverwolves are capable of catching the Miners. Eric Goldhardt (the team's best athlete) leads Riverton and he'll run sprints and the long jump. Senior Drew Clark runs sprints and hurdles while sophomore Trevor Sharp is their top distance runner. Two more seniors work the javelin and discus; watch for Javier Sanchez and Jaymin Vickers to be big point producers against a weak throwing region. Kathy Oman set a school record in the distance run earlier this season. She's part of a good Riverton girls team that will test region favorite Bingham. Emmy Jeppson is the team's top runner in the 400 and 800 meters. Senior Sarah Blad will set the pace in the hurdles. Senior thrower Shanna Nielsen is the team's top javelin thrower. Pencil in Riverton for second place, but they could surprise everyone and win it all.

COPPER HILLS: The boys team should be good enough to take either third or fourth, says head coach Garth Rushforth. Rebuilding on the boys' side, Rushforth will be hoping to get the most out of a depleted unit. Senior sprinters Ryan Scott and Layne Papenfuss will lead the Grizzlies in the short races while Damian Tippets is the top runner in the 1,600 and 3,200. Rushford says his distance runners are still a question mark. He's waiting for someone to emerge there. The girls team seems to be more defined. Discus and javelin thrower Brittany Waldron has been the team's most dominant athlete so far. Sophomores and juniors represent well. Jordan Turner, Jessica Zamudio and Shawna Michaelis all should make big contributions for Copper Hills. Things aren't too scary for the Grizzly girls, but it's hard to see them getting past Bingham or Riverton.

KEARNS: The Cougars are changing things up, and it starts at the top. Many new assistant coaches have been added this year. New sprinters coach Bill Coster, a former NFL player, is a welcomed addition to the staff. Seniors Clay Ostberg, Ryan Kozack and Jeremy Cox should help the team in everything from the pole vault to the sprints and high jump. Head coach Jim Flanagan says the distance team is where the boys are having trouble. The girls team is probably a year away. They have sophomores up and down the roster. Junior Michelle Gallati runs the 100 and 300 meters, while junior Megan Henderson is the top thrower for Kearns.

HUNTER: Coach Derrick Payton is planning for the future. Hunter has some holes in the lineup, which will keep them behind the eight ball in most meets. For the boys, senior Chris Collard is the top runner on the team. He runs the 800. Sophomores Anthony Bullock and Jarett Tauiliili will pick it up in the 400. Will Schroeder and javelin thrower Zach Fredrick should also contribute to this young team. The sprinters lead Hunter's girls. Junior Jazmine Wittman and sophomore Britney Steadman are the team's best. Senior Nicole Smith is the best high jumper and long jumper on the squad. Payton's girls are without a 3,200-meter runner and 800 meter runner.

WEST JORDAN: Coaching changes have left the Jaguars in disarray. Mark Nielson says his teams are extremely young, and they need time to rebuild. For the boys, seniors Andy Roberston and Dustin Littlfield will try to lead a team that is heavy with ninth graders. One of those youngsters is Jordan Fletcher; he's the top runner in the 400, while Riley Wilson gets the nod in the 800. The girls team has similar problems. Ninth-grader Anna Willis is great in the distance and Brittany Cardoza is the Jags best sprinter. After being steamrolled in an earlier meet with Riverton and Bingham, the Jaguars clearly understand they're on the bottom looking up.


E-mail: tpeterson@desnews.com