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SPORTS - "Bears cross-country teams storm region as boys repeat title"

BEAR RIVER HIGH - October 28, 2021

Bear River High cross-country team - Photo by Tyrell Neal

For the second year in a row the boys' varsity cross country squad is bringing home a region title to Bear River High.

“I really thought we could do it, but I also knew it would be close. I had a lot of respect for Green Canyon going in," said Coach Dan Line.

Right after last year’s state meet, Coach Line sat down and predicted the outcome of this year’s region meet.

“I actually had them winning it even though we won region last year, including dominating the JV race. They were bringing back some really good kids. All season I told the boys it would be us or them to win the race. I thought we would win, but I told them several times, including right before the start, that if they ran for themselves they would lose, but if they ran smart and ran for the team we would win it. The final results tell me what they wanted most,” he said.

From the start the Bear River varsity boys settled into the right spots. Not upfront in winning position, but right off the leaders and top teams in striking position.

“I actually thought we were a little slow, but as the race played out the boys really did great. They gave everything they had and it was a beautiful day. They were a really happy group,” Line said.

Starting with top Senior Ammon Hunter (4th, 16:33), the boys slowly but surely moved into contention.

“Ammon looked okay early, but he was behind three Green Canyon kids. As he slowly picked off everyone of them, I knew we had a great chance,” said Line.

Hunter went from 10th place early on all the way to 4th to secure the only medal for the team.

“I just don’t think I have ever had a cross country team win the team title with only one medalist. Glad Ammon got fourth. We needed every point for the team. He amazes me. He had to work all summer and didn’t get summer miles like pretty much every runner in the region and he gets fourth. Not only is he talented, but he is a hard worker and a very tough young man,” Line added.

Maybe the top showing for the boys team was senior Phillip Gallegos (11th, 17:05). Gallegos was out of the top 25 places at the mile mark but began a slow steady charge over the last two miles to pass all of Green Canyon’s number 4 through 7 runners and narrowly missing their number three runner for the tenth medal at the finish line to take 11th place.

“Phillip reminds me a lot of Keyjun Hale last year. Keyjun was up and down with injuries, illness and racing, but when we needed him he came through at Region and boy did Phillip ever come through for us this year. He wasn’t even upset about not getting a medal. He wanted that team trophy more than anything,” he said.

Gallegos effort pulled the remaining scoring runners to the finish line right behind him with sophomore David Bourgeous taking 13th (17:09), senior Matt Spotten 14th (17:10) and sophomore Braxton Craven 15th (17:16). That pack secured the team title for the Bears with a narrow 57-60 score over Green Canyon. Seniors Kenneth Pingle (22nd, 17:33) and captain Kael Kowallis (27th, 17:53) did their part as well by beating Green Canyon’s number 6 and 7 runners in case there was a tie.

“I know we won, but it doesn’t feel like Green Canyon lost or we beat them. They were right there. It was just our day. Grateful it swung our way. The boys earned that trophy,” Line added.

Line was quick to point out that the boys all suffered through some adversity the last several weeks leading up to the meet including illness, injury and time away from the team.

“Over and over again all season, Coach Neal and Coach Wynn helped the boys rally from adversity and mistakes to keep focused. The boys were always all in and responded to our coaching. So pleased with each one of them. The trust factor with these young men is what carried them to a championship,” he said.

Final Boys Varsity Team Scores

Bear River 57

Green Canyon 60

Sky View 71

Ridgeline 84

Logan 97

Mt Crest 141

The girls varsity squad also had a repeat performance. And although it was an excellent showing it wasn’t quite what they wanted.

“Several races this season we were right with Ridgeline in the team standings and after coming off an amazing performance at the Burley Invitational we really thought we could win. We still think we can beat them, but they have been a little more consistent than us and their experience helped them win region this year,” said Coach Tyrell Neal.

That performance at Burley ten days ago was a stunning upset of an Idaho ranked Twin Falls squad.

“We ran great there. We knew we had a chance at region and that in itself was a lot to be grateful for, but the girls wanted more. I think each one of them is hungry to go try again at state,” added Neal.

The girls started off just like they planned and were on track for the title before slipping in the middle section of the race to take second place to a really good top ranked Ridgeline squad by a score of 36-51.

“We sat the girls down the next day and said who had the best day at the region championship and of course they said the boys. But we pointed out to them that they had a lower team score (51-57) and they had three medalists and the boys only one. We also told them they improved more than the boys have since Cache Box closing the score differential with Ridgeline from 36 point to 15 points. Got to take all that and celebrate and feel good. Got to take that positive energy to state and try again as best we can. This group of girls are amazing,” said Line.

Amazing started with top Senior Liz Phillips who struggled through her toughest outing this season.

“Liz has not had a bad day all season both in practice and racing. In talking with her I took the blame. She practiced great coming in. I really believe she just need one extra day of rest. I missed that. She is going to come back strong at state and do great,” said Line.

Phillips was a pre-race favorite and started out in a great spot just behind the leader through the first mile before slipping back to take 6th place (19:47). Phillips was followed by newcomer and freshman Gracie Meeds (7th, 19:48) and then sophomore standout Bethany Richard (9th, 20:02). Just missing the medal podium with the top three Lady Bears was senior Shylee Kofoed (13th, 20:27).

“Last year Shylee started the season with an injury and worked through it and medaled at region. This year she had a more severe injury at the beginning of the season and has just battled it the whole time. Medaling this year would have given her four years in a row at region. I know she didn’t medal this year, but in my mind this was her best race ever. I don’t think anyone believed she would break 20:30 on this course but her. We believed in her the whole time. I have learned so much from her as a coach. My time working with her has been invaluable. I am so stoked she has another race left her senior year to go for it,” said Line.

Top sophomore Rebecca Curtis struggled like Phillips due to dehydration but still ran solid (16th, 20:38) and was the final scoring runner for the team. The final varsity spots were filled by sophomore Mattie Winward (21st, 21:06) and senior Katie Wynn (29th, 21:59).

“We have never had all seven runners break 22 minutes before at region. And we also had Madison and Makayla break 22 minutes in the JV race with Savanna just missing (22:08). Ten amazing performances. What a great day for the girls,” added Neal.

Final Girls Varsity Team Scores

Ridgeline 36

Bear River 51

Green Canyon 69

Mt Crest 94

Sky View 107

Logan 157

Also having excellent showings at the Region XI Championships were the JV runners from Bear River. The boys squad avenged a loss at Cache Box to Ridgeline to continue their streak of region titles (three) winning convincingly 22-45. The boys were led by JV region champion Ryan Pace (1st, 17:31). Pace and his junior classmates swept the top four spots and included Braxley Hale (2nd, 17:49), Reed Bourgeous (3rd, 17:50) and Carter Hamson (4th, 17:55). Sophomore Dakota Julander (12th, 18:11) and senior captain Will Rhodes (15th, 18:25) also medaled. Sophomore Ren Hunter was the final placer (23rd, 18:41) for the Bears.

Sophomore Madison Auble almost followed suit in the winning barely missing the JV girls individual title. Auble placed 2nd with an excellent time of 21:36 just 13 seconds behind the winner. Freshman Makayla Arnold (5th, 21:59) and junior Savanna Sexton (10th, 22:08) also got on the medal stand. Final team placers for the Lady Bears JV team were freshman Katie Reid (25th, 23:21), Alysha Spotten (28th, 23:25), Kelsie Hanks (35th, 23:48) and senior Reese Walsh (58th, 24:44). The JV girls took home third place.

The Bears program had the best combined varsity and overall team placements in the Region:

Bear River (7), Ridgeline (8), Green Canyon (11), Sky View (16), Mt Crest (19) and Logan (23).

Both varsity squads punched their tickets at the 4A State Championships on Wednesday, October 27, at Rose Park Regional Sports Complex in SLC.


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