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High school cross country: Volleyball athletes put Bobcats at top of 1A

Dugway's Katie Nielson won the girls 1A state cross country high school championship on Wednesday.
Dugway's Katie Nielson won the girls 1A state cross country high school championship on Wednesday.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — When the cross country season started, Panguitch coach Danny Yardley knew he needed some help if the Bobcats were going to have a prayer at competing this year.

He went to volleyball standout, Carly Holman, and asked her to not only run for the team, but to bring some of her friends with her.

The Bobcat's setter, she is a natural leader, and she managed to convince about a half dozen friends to juggle cross country mileage with volleyball practices. Her efforts resulted in the first 1A state title for the Panguitch girls cross country team with the lowest score of 59 points. Wayne and St. Joseph Catholic High tied with 67 points each. The tie was broken by the teams' slowest runners — runner No. 7 — which gave Wayne second place and the favored Jayhawks third place.

It was a moment not many in Panguitch dreamed of just a two months ago when the school was struggling to put together a team.

"Danny came to me and asked if I would get a couple of the volleyball players to come run too," said Carly Holman, who brought along her little sister, freshman Catania Holman, who finished second in Wednesday's meet with a time of 20:00.3.

Not only did Yardley have to convince the girls, he needed the support of volleyball coach Troy Norris, who incorporated cross country workouts into volleyball practices when the team couldn't meet for early morning practices.

"Small schools have to share athletes," said Yardley, smiling at fellow coach Genny Houston. "I knew if I could get Carly, she would bring the other girls along."

Houston said it wasn't just Carly's leadership that prompted them to lure her onto the team.

"She's a good runner," said Houston of Carly Holman, who finished in 11th place.

Catania's talent was something no one anticipated.

"She's amazing at running," said Carly Holman, clutching the trophy. Houston said Catania finished one race two minutes ahead of the second-place runner and then said to her coaches, "I'm pretty good at this."

The girls had to run at 5:50 a.m. two days a week and run as part of volleyball practice on the other days. It was grueling at times, they said, but well worth it on Wednesday.

"I'm so proud of them," said Yardley.

Senior Katie Neilson, Dugway, won the individual title with a time of 19:35, and Lyna Garcia, St. Joseph, was third with a time of 20:02.4.

Nielson said she had a little help finding the will to win on Wednesday. She said stories of her grandmother, who ran in the Olympic Games, inspired her to start running in junior high. Every time she runs, she feels the presence of a woman who died two years before she was born.

"I could always feel her spirit with me," she said of the grandmother she never met. "Her and Heavenly Father helped me during this race."

On the boys side, Colby Spencer, Valley High, won the individual title with a time of 16:48. The junior is also a baseball player, and said he doesn't actually enjoy running.

He said his only thought throughout the race was "just run."

Nathaniel Broadhead, a junior from Dugway, was second with a time of 17:00.1, while Vance Weston, a sophomore from Rich, was third with a time of 17:06.4.

Monticello won the boys team title, and said the 1A championship was their goal from the moment they got together in July.

"These guys had it as their goal from the start," said Monticello head coach Jeff Hunt. "We won all our region meets, so we knew this was possible."

The Buckaroos were a powerhouse in cross country in the 90s, but had struggled lately.

"It's nice to be back on top," said Hunt, smiling at his runners.

Monticello scored 47 points, while Bryce Valley was second with 85 points and St. Joesph's was third with 95 points.