OREM — Fans at Scera Park on Wednesday did not leave disappointed. The Region 4 cross country championships featured a tight girls race, a photo finish and a dominating team performance in the boys race.
Timpanogos senior Michael Bills won the boys varsity race by just .4 seconds over American Fork's Ben Felix. Felix, however, led his team to a dominating win, 33 points ahead of the second-place Timberwolves.
Brooke Hodson won the girls race in 17:14.5, helping Timpanogos hold off Alexis Laws and American Fork for the region title, 42-48.
Bills led portions of the 2.9-mile boys varsity race but trailed Felix by about 20 meters after the American Fork senior made a strong move 400 meters from the finish.
"At that point, I just settled and said second was good enough," Bills said. "But when I hit the chute I thought, 'Hey, I can do this. I'm not gonna settle.' I'm a senior and it was my last chance."
Bills made the most of it, closing on Felix in the last 10 meters for his first individual region championship. Coaches and parents not by the finish line didn't even realize Bills had won till 15 minutes after his dramatic victory.
"To think he had that much left at the end of a race is just incredible," Timpanogos coach Jody Benson said.
On the strength of Felix's second-place finish, the Cavemen won their first region championship since moving to 5A.
"It's only our second region trophy ever, so we're pretty excited," said American Fork coach Timo Mostert. "I just hope we can run this fast and this close to each other at state."
The Cavemen ran a 25-second gap one through five off of Felix's 15:07. A similar effort at Sugarhouse Park next week would put American Fork in contention for a state championship — something no boys program at American Fork has been able to do in almost two decades.
"I wouldn't call us a favorite," Mostert said, "but the guys have been working really hard together and it's our goal to win."
The Lady Timberwolves have similar goals after their own come-from-behind region championship.
"At the two-mile mark we were behind," Benson said. "I knew if we didn't have some girls step up we weren't going to make it, but Hannah Groom and Kim Bringhurst each passed two or three girls the last mile."
Groom and Bringhurst finished seventh and 13th. The Timberwolves will need similar efforts one through seven to challenge heavily favored Davis for the state championship.
"We'd have to run a perfect race to beat them," Benson said. "They're definitely the favorite."
The runner-up American Fork's girls team, led by Alexis Laws' second-place finish, qualifies them for the state meet. American Fork missed qualifying a year ago.
"I'm proud of the girls for doing as well as they did," American Fork girls coach Bruno Hunziker said. "We didn't qualify last year and really came in with something to prove. They ran great."
The top four boys and girls teams qualify for the state championships next week at Sugarhouse Park.