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Traditional powers strong again

Defending champions look to repeat in 2007

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Most of the state's traditional cross country powers seem destined to vie for supremacy again this season.

After last Saturday's Fall Classic held at East Bay golf course in Provo, most coaches have narrowed their focus to a handful of favorites.

For the boys, Davis, Bingham, Alta and American Fork appear to have the upper hand on the rest of Class 5A. Davis is the defending state champion and is led by a pair of strong runners in Seth Gutzwiller and Spencer Anderson. Darts coach Corbin Talley takes over the head coaching position this season, as former coach Roger Buhrley has moved on to Syracuse High School.

The defending 5A champions should get a run for their money from a variety of contenders. Alta and American Fork pose a serious threat right now. The Hawks have a ton of depth this season, returning 21 of their top 22 runners from a team that finished seventh overall in 2006. Hawks coach Rob Murphy has plenty of confidence in his team, calling it the best cross country team ever at Alta High School.

Utah County coaches are very high on American Fork. The Cavemen's top five athletes are running extremely well, which could springboard American Fork into real contention come October.

Other talented 5A teams to keep an eye on are Weber and Skyline. The Eagles have 5A medalist Steve Clark and a balanced attack behind him.

Mountain View has realigned into Class 4A this season, and the Bruins believe their chances of winning a title in 2007 are almost a lock.

"We're looking to come up big at region and state and take that championship home," said Bruins senior Travis Fuller. "I've got no doubts in my mind."

Orem put a bit of a dent into Mountain View's season by beating the Bruins at the pre-region meet, so expect close competition between the Bruins and Tigers this season. Defending 4A champion Timpview should also be a factor in October. The Thunderbirds are led by standout runner Nate Fletcher. Mountain Crest lost star runner Justin Hedin, but still has enough balance to be Region 5 favorites.

In Class 3A, Judge Memorial, Park City, Bear River and Cedar all have a great chance to win the title. Cedar lost two of its best runners to graduation but also returns three talented athletes ready to pick up the slack. Judge arguably has the state's best runner in Luke Puskedra, but younger runners must step up to give the Bulldogs a chance. Park City and Bear River are also considered threats because of their overall depth.

The Davis girls finished as runner-up to Jordan last season, but confidence is high this year for the Darts. Having top runner Candace Eddy back in the fold is key, but the depth is really what makes Davis a clear favorite to win the 5A crown.

Defending champion Jordan returns completely intact from last season. However, coach Greg Cramer says his team hasn't looked like the same championship squad from a year ago. After a tri-meet at Taylorsville, Cramer said it appears his team is going through some early season malaise.

There are others that could threaten the Darts. Alta, Skyline, Fremont and American Fork all have solid talent but they might not hold up against the Darts' depth and experience.

Defending 4A champion Mountain Crest returns another juggernaut this season. Led by top runner Macinze O'very, the Mustangs have all the earmarks of a championship team. If injured runner Kimber Labrum can stay healthy for the remainder of the season, Mountain Crest will be a big favorite to defend its state title.

Box Elder, Timpview and Orem are capable of challenging but seem to be a notch below the Mustangs.

The 3A girls race should come down to five-time champion Park City and Cedar. Judge Memorial, Ogden and North Sanpete are also on the radar. The Miners crushed Cedar by 37 points last season and return several experienced runners from that championship squad. Judge also has capable runners back with Hailey Knettles and Lindsay Baker, but coaches question the Bulldogs' depth.

E-mail: tpeterson@desnews.com