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Cross country meet may end in a few surprises

New powers may upset the usual pecking order

Some of the most experienced coaches maintain that there are rarely any surprises when the state's top cross country teams converge at Sugarhouse Park for the state championships. Upon further review, though, a case could be made to disprove that notion.

Mountain View's boys teams from the '90s dominated the scene for the better part of a decade, as expected. But on the flip side, Jordan's girls came straight out of the blue last year to capture the Class 5A title, giving eternal hope to the underdog. Heading into Wednesday's state meet, the question remains: Will there be an upset or will it go by the numbers?

In Class 5A, the competition has been narrowed down to Davis, American Fork, Skyline and Alta. There are dark horses in Weber and Bingham, but a champion could emerge from either Davis, Skyline or American Fork. The Darts have the deepest team in 5A and they're led by two experienced runners in Seth Gutzwiller and Spencer Anderson. The Eagles shocked Alta by taking the region title, and they shouldn't be discounted here. The Cavemen won Region 4 with the help of star runners Ben Felix and Robby Lee. American Fork will be in contention if its top five runners have a great perfomance.

Mountain Crest, in 4A, might have the edge on two very good Utah County teams, but only if its competitiors run like they did at the Region 5 championship. The Mustangs are very experienced and seem to be peaking at the right time. Led by Neal Ferrin and Kevin Dickey, the Cache Valley team will be challenged by Orem and defending 4A champ, Timpview.

All-stater Brian Fletcher leads the way for the T-Birds, who squeaked past Orem in the region championship by a single point. The Tigers will be in the mix, having won the Murray Invitational earlier this season. They should have enough gas in the tank to keep pace with Timpview and Mountain Crest. Individually, Springville's Spencer Gardner is the favorite to win it all.

Park City, Cedar City, Judge Memorial and North Sanpete are all contenders for the 3A crown. Ogden has also finished the year strong and could be a factor in the end. Judge's Luke Puskedra is favored to win the medalist honors and might very well be the fastest runner in the entire field. Park City and Cedar City have been ready to duke it out for the state championship all season, and now they'll get their chance.

On the girls' side, Davis is the favorite, and most coaches believe the Darts will run away with the team title. Candace Eddy and Natalie Haws lead a team that might be the best Darts team ever, but they'll need a championship to prove it. Timpanogos, Skyline, Spanish Fork and American Fork are all strong contenders, but none seems capable of beating a sound Darts team. Individually, Skyline's Shayla Kipp is the favorite to defend her state title.

In 4A, two teams should be headed for a tight finish. Defending state champion Mountain Crest looks ready to take another victory lap. Orem has put it all together at the end of the season and will be the biggest challenger to Mountain Crest. The Tigers have five solid runners, but the outcome could hinge on how Orem's Krystal Harper and Kendy Christensen perform. After strong performances at region, Mountain Crest will look to speedsters Laura Hatch, Talina Nelson and Whitney Curtis to get the job done. Expect a very intense duel from these teams because both teams are confident and know how to win.

Several schools are in contention for the 3A crown but only a few are ready to separate from the pack. Five-time state champion Park City was near the top of the list until a rash of injuries knocked it down. Now Cedar City has emerged as the team to beat. It hasn't lost to a 3A team this season, and that trend should continue. Led by Hanna Ellsworth, Cedar's girls look ready to claim the title. It won't come easy as Judge Memorial and Ogden are strong enough take the championship home as well.