Patience paid off for a pair of 2A schools at Wednesday's state cross country championships.
A year after narrowly finishing second, Millard's girls and Parowan's boys demonstrated the necessary resolve to get over the hump with each hoisting state championship trophies at Sugarhouse Park.
"It sounds funny to be unhappy with a second-place trophy last year, but the kids were really unhappy just because they worked so hard," said Parowan coach Mike Robinson, whose team was a runner-up to Richfield by two points last year. "So they basically started as soon as we finished last year, and they've just put in a ton of work."
Parowan was led by a trio of runners that finished in a clump at fourth, fifth and sixth, but the star of the boys 2A race was Manti's Daniel Howell. The senior blazed past the competition finishing with a time of 16:17.01, nearly 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Nathan Fowles (16:45.6) from North Summit.
It was Howell's second straight individual state title, and even though he made it look easy, he credits a lot of hard work as the reason why.
Juab's Lorenzo Jenson (16:52.1), Parowan's Tyler Robinson (19:55.3) and Parowan's Henry Hornberger (16:56.6) rounded out the boys top five.
In the girls race the lead changed hands several times, but throughout it all Grand's Dayna VanArsdol said, "I just tried to stay positive. Throughout the race you just have to think that you are a state champion."
That strong mentality pushed VanArsdol toward the front of the pack with about a mile remaining, and it pushed her to the finish line three seconds ahead of San Juan freshman Katie Hiatt even though they were neck-and-neck with about 200 meters remaining.
VanArsdol finished with a time of 20:05.7, edging Hiatt's time of 20:08.5. North Sevier's Kaylee Coates (20:20.6), Millard's Shelli Richardson (20:26.2) and Parowan's Kiersten Blauer (20:43.2) rounded out the girls top five.
Richardson was one of four Millard girls who finished in the top 10, which reiterates just how far the program has come.
When Pete Anderson took over the program five years ago Millard had never qualified a girls cross country team for state. Two years later the Eagles finished fourth, and last year they lost to North Sevier by a meager three points. In 2007, however, they returned the favor, finishing with 50 points — three ahead of runner-up North Sevier which was denied its third straight state title.
Other Millard racers who placed in the top 10 were Stevie Crook, Whitney Holding and Kyle Labrum. All seven Millard athletes who competed Wednesday are also on the girls soccer team that's playing in the 2A semifinals this Friday.
Behind Millard and North Sevier, Grand finished third with 89 points, followed by Parowan in fourth at 109 and North Summit in fifth with 120.
On the boys side, Parowan ended up winning with a total of 56 points led by the 4-5-6 finish of Robinson, Hornberger and Robbie Tripp. Richfield finished second with 65 points, with Juab checking in at third with 75, Rowland Hall in fourth with 107 and North Summit in fifth with 127.