by Walter & Becky Bird
One needs to attend the Utah State Cross Country Championships at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City to obtain an appreciation of one of the toughest high school sports.
Every year there are numerous story lines of heroics, drama, and even failures as all six classes meet for a full day of cross country action resulting in the crowning of twelve state championship teams and individual runners.
As usual, the 2017 version did not disappoint with storylines such as a runner who suffered a broken tibia during the race and was carried across the line by a teammate only to have both runners disqualified.
In their own right, the Monticello cross country teams provided their own brand of drama during the day.
This year’s meet brought later race starting times, and for 1A teams, a different scoring method. Typically cross country teams run seven runners and score five. This year in 1A, teams still ran seven, but scoring would be based on four runner’s finishes.
The format change was made in attempt to make the state meet a more competitive race for the smaller schools that may have fewer runners.
Knowing they needed to run their best race of the year to win a state title, the Buckaroo boys toed the line and set off.
Adam Bunker went out early to the head of the pack and never was challenged, as he ran to a school record time of 16:20 for his first 1A state championship title, besting his closest rival from Panguitch by 53.1 seconds.
A slew of key finishes by Buckaroo runners propelled the team to the 2017 state title. In his first state meet, freshman Alan Pettit outlasted a Panguitch runner, nipping him at the line to claim an important third place finish in a time of 17:19.
Sophomore Hyrum Johnson was next to finish, claiming fifth in 17:34 and improving his finish time from last year by a 1:49!
Before another Panguitch runner could get across the line, lone senior Ryan Bird dropped two-runners, one of which was a Panguitch runner, in the last 200 meters to coast to a sixth place overall finish and cap the Buckaroo scoring at 15, besting a disappointed two-time defending champion Panguitch squad by seven points!
Not far behind, junior Lucas Hatch crossed in 18:09 to claim a ninth place medal. Sophomore Dylan Bird also had a top-15 finish, claiming the 14th spot with a time of 18:42.5.
Junior Britton Brewer had a nice race and finished 30th overall with a run of 20:10 in his first state meet since his freshman year.
To put this race in perspective, the team’s combined time of 86.40 was the third fastest 1A cumulative boys team time ever – now giving the Bucks two of the top five overall team times in 1A history and surpassing the 2013 Buckaroo state championship team that ran a 87:39.
Bunker joins 2A champ Jordan Jensen (1996), Easton Nielson (2013), and Tyler Bird (2015) as the only Bucks to win individual boys state championships in cross country.
No Buck boy has ever won two state individual titles in a row, so Bunker, only a junior, has a chance at next year’s race to accomplish that feat.
With this title, Coach Jeff Hunt has secured five of the last seven 1A cross country titles (2011-2014 and 2017), placing him in the top ten winningest cross country boys coaches in Utah state history – regardless of class.
With only Ryan Bird dropping off the scoring team members, the Buckaroo boys look to add their eleventh state cross country championship in 2018, which would make the school the second winningest school in Utah boy’s cross country history behind Mountain View of Orem, who owns 15 titles.
The Buck girls, back to the state championships for the first time since 2014 under head coach Kasey Harris, hoped to have a good day. When you’re building a program it doesn’t happen overnight – it comes in steps.
Just qualifying and attending the meet was the first step for the young lady Bucks, and they are young, sporting one freshman and four sophomores.
The 1A girls were the first to hit the course on a nice running day with temps in the 50s. The Buckaroo girls ran hard and gave it their all.
When the dust settled, the team had finished sixth overall with a team score of 85. Freshman Kennedy Brewer led out at the state meet and finished 23rd overall with a time of 24:05. She was followed by sophomore Serra St. Clair, who finished 25th in 24:14.
Another sophomore, Madison Freestone, gutted out her run, placing 29th with a time of 24:27. Sophomore Makayla Sheeran came across in 25:38 for 35th.
The always smiling Kaitlyn Morrison and Jessica Stevens, both sophomores, came in 47th and 48th respectively with finishing times of 30:27 and 30:38.
Make no mistake, state didn’t go as planned for the ladies, but it was a successful season for Coach Harris’ team and better days are ahead for the lady Bucks!
Football – Monticello v. Kanab
In their final 1A South Division game, the Monticello Buckaroo football team found themselves in hostile territory for a Thursday night game in Kanab.
The Bucks were hoping a win over the Cowboys could propel them into the 1A playoffs with some confidence and momentum. But Kanab is a tough place to play, and it was not meant to be, as the Bucks fell to the Cowboys 7-33.
The Bucks fell behind the Cowboys early as they gave up two scores to go down 14-0 after one quarter.
Kanab surged even further ahead in the second quarter as they tacked on another touchdown, but the PAT failed and their lead was 0-20.
Max Hedglin was able to get Monticello into the end zone on a seven-yard scamper. Cedar English’s kick was good, and the Bucks trailed Kanab 7-20 at the half.
The third quarter ended in a scoreless stalemate, as neither team could out the ball into the end zone.
Unfortunately for the Bucks, Kanab added two more scores in the fourth quarter, and Monticello could not add to its scoring effort.
The result was a 7-33 loss for the Buckaroos, dropping them to 0-3 in the 1A South Division and lining them up to play the top 1A North Division team in next week’s playoffs.
Offensively, the Bucks failed to move the ball like it did last week against Milford, only gaining 133 total yards. Monticello rushed for 41 yards on 12 carries.
Brayson Wilcox ran it three times for 17 yards. Thomas Anderson also had 17 yards on five carries. Max Hedglin gained nine yards on two carries, but had a TD.
Through the air, Monticello gained 92 yards. Brayson Wilcox connected on five of twelve passes for 61 yards and one INT. Mark Beh threw 13 passes but only completed two of those tosses for 31 yards and two INTs.
Thomas Anderson and Max Hedglin caught one ball each for 20 and 14 yards respectively.
On defense, the Bucks tried to contain the Cowboys, but Kanab employed a very balanced attack that had the Bucks off balance most of the game. The result for Kanab was 154 yards on the ground, only bested by 222 yards through the air for 376 yards of total offense.
Up next, Monticello (2-8) will head to Duchesne on Friday, October 27 at 4 p.m., to take on the Eagles (8-1) in the 1A playoff quarterfinals. There shouldn’t be snow in the canyons yet, so head up to Duchesne and support the boys!
On Tuesday, the still No. 3 Deseret News 1A ranked Buckaroo volleyball team traveled to Price to take on the Pinnacle Canyon Panthers in a Region 19 match. The varsity girls again played well and prevailed in three sets 25-18, 25-14, and 25-7.
The next night and Senior Night, the Buckaroo girls hosted the Green River Pirates in a match to decide the Region 19 Championship.
Monticello had already beaten the Pirates in Green River last month in four sets and was looking to do the same at home. That they did, rolling to a 25-17, 25-19, 25-17 win to improve to 17-12 overall and a perfect 10-0 in Region 19 play to capture the region title.
Now they move onto the state tournament with some confidence and momentum.
Seniors Erin Rogers, Ashley Adair and Abi Nielson were all recognized on Senior Night for their contributions over the years to the Monticello program.
Coach Esplin admitted that his team has been “a little banged up for the past several weeks. Wednesday they finally had everyone back, although not at 100 percent, but we are excited for the challenge that state will present on October 27 and 28.”
The Monticello girls will commence their march to a state title at the 1A Utah State Volleyball Championships tournament in Orem on the campus of UVU on Friday, October 27 at 10 a.m. on Court #2 against an opponent yet to be determined.