SPORTS – “Phillips shines at 4A state cross-country championships; Lady Bears take 5th in state”

SALT LAKE CITY – November 4, 2021

Liz Phillips, Region 11 championships, October 2021 - Photo by Tyrell Neal

It was an excellent season on the course for the Bear River High cross-country teams as they wrapped up at the season at the 4A state championship meet on October 27, 2021. This year’s race was held in Salt Lake City at the Regional Athletic Complex.


This year the newly organized 4A classification pits the most southern high schools in Utah (St. George area) against the most northern schools (Cache Valley and northern Box Elder County).


“The teams down south are so tough. We were hoping to compete better against them, but they basically dominated state. We are grateful for some good results. We hope moving forward that we can build a better foundation for the athletes so they can have a little more success at the state level,” said Bear River High’s girls’ cross-country coach Tyrell Neal.


Looking for some redemption after a 6th place finish at the Region 11 championship race the week before was Bear River High senior Liz Phillips. Phillips was a contender going into the region championship, but a 6th place finish wasn’t what she had in mind.


“We didn’t feel we had Liz prepared at region. We really thought Liz would win region, but the coaches rallied around her and went back to the drawing board and mapped out a plan to get her ready. She really responded and it was great to see her confidence return. So sweet seeing her come in with the leaders at the finish line,” Neal added.


Phillips took 5th place in the state meet in a loaded field with a near school record time of 19:15 minutes. She was in 4th place most of the race before being caught near the finish line.


“Liz was in the zone and looked great the whole way. That course was a full 5k. Usually state is only three miles. She might have taken down the school record if it was three miles, but she is going to have to settle for second best time in school history. What is great though is she is on the radar of local college coaches now after that performance. Pretty sure an offer will come for her because of her efforts today,” said coach Dan Line.


Phillips’ historic finish was followed by the finish of newcomer, and promising freshman Gracie Meeds (18th, 19:52.4).


“Gracie was 7th in the region standings last week and moved up a spot to 6th best in the region today. Her time puts her top five ever in school history at state. So grateful she has come out for the team. She will be a leader for us in the future,” Line added.


Meeds was the number two freshman in the race which will also include being named third team all-state. Next runner up was senior standout Shylee Kofoed.


“A month ago, Shylee was barely in our top 10 as she recovered from an injury and now, she is our number three. She has no quit and has been a joy to work with these last four years. Adversity isn’t fun but it does show your true colors. Shylee just shines brighter every year and has grown so much as a person. Hard to see her go from cross country but we are hoping she has a great track season,” Neal said.


Just like Phillips and Meeds, Kofoed moved up in the region rankings. After placing 13th at region last week, Kofoed moved up to 9th among region runners at state.


“If she had two more weeks of being healthy, she would have been top five at region and been an all-state placer today, but we are happy about her regaining her health and confidence. She has something good to build off going forward,” he said.


The rest of the team had solid efforts as sophomores Bethany Richard (40th, 20:46), Rebecca Curtis (45th, 20:57), Mattie Winward (48th, 21:05) and senior Katie Wynn (57th, 21:29) helping the Lady Bears tie their best team placing at state ever (5th) and record the lowest score in team history with 133 points.


“The girls have had a great season. We are super pleased with those senior girls and are excited about our young team and the promising future they have ahead of them. It was a great day for Bear River athletics,” Neal added.


This year Pine View High (60) repeated as state champions and was followed by Desert Hills High (89), Cedar City High (89), Ridgeline High (110) and Bear River (133). Thirteen teams total competed at state this year.


It was not to be another great day for the boys’ cross-country team at Bear River.


Coming off their 7th region title in school history, the boys were hoping to place high at state.


“We really had a couple nice practices. The boys were happy and loose and ready to roll. But it seems that a lot like last year, winning region took it out of us. We came into region and state with some illness pretty much through the whole team. Just didn’t have another great day in us. I said it last year, rather have that region trophy. That’s precious,” Line said.


Top senior runner Ammon Hunter was not to be denied though. The talented runner stayed in with the top pack to take 19th place and a top school state time of 16:38.


“Ammon proved he belongs with the leaders, but he also is going to take this offseason serious and get ready for track. If he prepares himself like the other runners have, he will do great things. I know he has the drive and wants to excel. Super pleased he has been on the team and helped us to two consecutive region titles,” Line added.


Two talented sophomores took the next team spots for Bear River as Braxton Craven (35th, 17:11) and David Bourgeous (39th, 17:19) had solid outings.


“I really wish we knew how fast they ran compared to the old course. If you convert their times, they both broke 16:50 on a three-mile course. That’s pretty stellar for two sophomores. Like Gracie, they will be leaders on the boys side next year,” he said.


Seniors Phillip Gallegos (52nd, 17:31), Matt Spotten (55th, 17:36), Kenneth Pingle (61st, 17:43) and Kael Kowallis (82nd, 18:27) brought home their last race in red for Bear River High.


“You get greedy when you have a good group of seniors who listen and get along. We sure wanted one greater race, but we were drained from that region title, and it just didn’t happen today. We got the region trophy engraved the day before the meet and brought it with us. It was a good reminder that we had a great year and not to be disappointed by a down day,” said Line.


The Bears were passed in the team standings by Region 11 rival Green Canyon High as both teams finished 6th and 8th, respectively, in the final team scoring. The top five teams were all southern Utah schools. Cedar City (35) surprised defending champions Desert Hills (53) for the state title and were followed by Snow Canyon High (96), Pine View (166) and Crimson Cliffs High (173).


Photos of the 2021 Region 11 cross-country championship are courtesy of Tyrell Neal