If things go right for Alta in Region 2 girls cross country this fall, the Hawks could end a 20-year drought between championships.

Alta is ranked No. 1 in Class 5A over perennial favorites like Fremont and Davis. Jordan's girls are also getting some respect with a fourth-place preseason ranking. Skyline, Brighton and Taylorsville should fight it out for a bid to the state meet.

As for Hillcrest, this year was supposed to be a breakout season, but coaches are saying that the Huskies haven't been able to live up to the promise they showed last season.

The fourth-ranked Alta boys look to have the inside track over Skyline and Jordan, even though the Eagles are the defending region champions.

"I would say we're the favorite to win the region," Hawks coach Rob Murphy said.

Last week, the boys ran a very strong tri-meet race, showing why they're the favorites in the region. Alta won the race and put seven runners in the top 10.

"Right now, I don't think you can pick a clear-cut favorite," Skyline coach Tom Porter said.

The young Eagles will be in the mix for the region title. Junior Steve Clark is one of the elite runners in the state, but Skyline lost a lot of talent from last year's team.

The region dark horse is Jordan, which has talent but is young and untested. Senior runner Mike Betenson is the Beetdiggers' top runner. They're also looking for younger runners to step up, which is why Jordan coaches believe they could be a year away.

Alta should win this rugged region and then make a run at the state title.

Here's a more in-depth look at Region 2 cross country:

ALTA: Both the girls and boys should be strong enough to win Region 2 this season. The girls are loaded with seniors and juniors. They're the No. 1-ranked team in 5A, and they bring a ton of confidence with them. Led by Marissa Floodman and Millie Wegener, the Hawks are a team that can almost coach itself. Breanna Kidd, Ashley Nelson and Jamie Jacobs complete a powerful team.

The boys are favorites to win the region because of their extraordinary depth. They finished 11th at the state meet in 2005, but coaches expect this team to do much better. RyanStewart is new to cross country, but he's the team's top runner. Kyle Moffet, AJ Christensen, Brandon Moore and Jack Webster make up a deep roster.

SKYLINE: The boys are the defending region champions, but they bring a lot of untested talent on board this season. Being able to compete when it counts will be the challenge that faces Skyline's young core of runners. CoachPorter has experienced runners in Stephen Clark and Thatcher Olsen, but unproven sophomores like Ben Taylor, Isaac Hales and Morgan Embey will be crucial to the Eagles' success. The expectations aren't quite as high for the girls. Injuries have hampered star Rachel Webb, and Porter isn't sure if she'll compete this season. Shayla Kipp, Megan Combe, Ashley Bentley and freshman Taylor Olsen make up the team's top runners. Skyline's first test will be Sept. 9 at BYU's Autumn Classic.

JORDAN: The boys might not be in the class of Alta or Skyline, but they will challenge everyone else in Region 2. Mike Betenson, Jake Nielson and Reid Jones are talented runners, but the rest of the team's lack of experience will weigh against it at the region championships. The girls team is coming off a region title and a second-place finish at state. Newcomer and Alta transfer NatalieEspino will also join the team this season. Without a single senior in sight, it will be up to the underclassmen to carry the team. Stephanie Burt, Aimee Haertel, Alexis Davis and Sam Robinson should keep Jordan's winning tradition going.

BRIGHTON: Eileen Struna believes her teams will be able to qualify for state, but beyond that, there are a lot of questions. The biggest question is team depth; right now they're still trying to find their top runners. If the Bengals can solve that issue, they could be in good shape. The boys surprised everyone last season with a fifth-place finish at state and they could be ready to do that again. The boys team is smaller but it should get better as the season progresses. Oliver Williams and Braden York are the top runners. They'll also expect contributions from Steven Devries and Ben Christenson. Struna is confident in her girls this season. She expects good production from Kalina Zufelt, Janine Smith, Cesia Stay and Stacy Lehman. A region title probably isn't in the cards but a return to the state championship could be.

TAYLORSVILLE: Kirt Heywood is the boys' top runner this season along with a strong class of juniors like Derrick Noakes, Chris Thatcher and Thaddius Schulte. Coach Alan Hansen doesn't see any reason that his team can't finish in the top four of Region 2.

"As long as we keep working, we should be right there," he said.

The boys might move up the region ladder if a few teams aren't prepared for a strong Taylorsville boys team. The girls team has a lot of first-time runners, so it could be a difficult year. The bright spots are Megan Ferguson (coming off injury), April Hugie, Heather Gardner and Jessica Thomson.

HILLCREST: The promising future of the Huskies' cross country team never seemed to materialize. Runners who looked good last season aren't doing so this year. It's gotten to be a point of frustration for the coaches.

"Everybody that's gotten a year older really hasn't gotten any better," Huskies coach Rob Collins said.

Senior Duncan Brunstetter is a great surprise for the team; he'll be the Huskies' No. 1 runner. Sean Larsen and Tavin Stucki will also help the squad. For now, the Huskies don't have the numbers to put up much of a fight. The girls are a little better off, but they too haven't lived up to last season's potential. Sharon Olsen will lead the way, along with Amanda Brown, AmandaLybbert and Cheyenne Thompson. Expect the girls to battle with Taylorsville for fifth and sixth place in Region 2.

Region 2 cross country coaches predictions

Boys

1. Alta

2. Skyline

3. Jordan

4. Brighton

5. Taylorsville

6. Hillcrest

Girls

1. Alta

2. Jordan

3. Skyline

4. Brighton

5. Taylorsville

6. Hillcrest


E-mail: tpeterson@desnews.com