Buckaroo boys roll to State XC title, ladies third
THE BIRD SCOOP
by Walter & Becky Bird
If you have never been to Sugarhouse Park for the Utah State XC Championships, you have missed out on one of the greatest spectacles in Utah high school sports.
All six classes converge on the park for a full day of men’s and women’s races over the same three-mile course.
Every year there is suspense, drama, upsets, exhilaration, and disappointment. It makes for a fun day – especially if your team comes away victorious.
Last Wednesday, Oct. 17, the Monticello cross country teams attended the state meet and wrapped up what can easily be deemed successful seasons for both teams.
The 1A ladies were the first to run the state course and, with only a team of four runners, the Lady Bucks turned in one of their best efforts of the season.
Coming off a loss last week at the Region 19 meet to Whitehorse, Monticello rallied to defeat the Raiders and place third behind eventual winner Panguitch and runner-up Milford. The finish improved on the team’s sixth place state finish at last year’s meet.
Freshman Lily Long continued her steady improvement with a tremendous effort – placing an impressive fourth overall with a time of 21:02 in her first state meet.
Sophomore Serra St. Clair had a nice meet, coming in 19th place after running a time of 23:27. Not far behind St. Clair was sophomore Kennedy Brewer, turning in a time of 24:06 which was good enough for 23rd place.
The final Lady Buck runner across the finish was freshman Halle Morrison who placed 33rd with a time of 24:58.
Coach Kasey Harris has done a tremendous job with this young team and was beaming with pride at the state meet with how her young girls ran. This team improved from week to week and seemed to peak at the right time.
Brighter days are ahead for the Monticello Lady Buck cross country program, as they look to add some depth to next year’s team.
Roughly an hour after the conclusion of the ladies 1A race, the 1A boys toed the line for the opportunity to win a state title.
Coming in, the Monticello boys were heavy favorites, holding four of the top six times for the season in 1A for the three-mile distance.
Monticello got off to a great start and never relented, overwhelming the runners from second-place Panguitch.
Individual state champion Adam Bunker lead from start to finish. Right behind him and bunched up were Monticello runners Alan Pettit, Cory Bunker, and Hyrum Johnson. It was like an orange mob as Monticello finished first through fourth place before a Panguitch runner finished the race in fifth.
In cross country terms, the Bucks finished with a “perfect score” of ten – meaning that is the fewest points possible that a winning team could score in a meet. With that finish, the Bucks captured their second consecutive state 1A title in the second fastest time overall team time in 1A state meet history.
Senior Adam Bunker also claimed his second consecutive state 1A title with a time of 16:32 – a feat that has never been accomplished before by a male Monticello runner – separating him from single year Monticello state champions Jordan Jensen (2A champ – 1996), Easton Nielson (1A – 2013), and Tyler Bird (1A – 2015).
Not too far behind Bunker was sophomore Alan Pettit, who claimed second place running a time of 17:14. Brother and sophomore Cory Bunker, running his first season of cross country, came in third with a time of 17:16. Junior Hyrum Johnson claimed fourth place logging a time of 17:18.
However, the Bucks weren’t finished claiming top-ten spots when senior Lucas Hatch crossed the line in eight-place with a time of 18:30 good enough for a medal.
In fact, Monticello’s dominance was even more evident when all seven of its runners finished in the top 16 state spots as freshman Boston Freestone and junior Dylan Bird finished in eleventh and 16th place with times of 18:48 and 19:13.
With this year’s title, Coach Jeff Hunt has claimed six of the last eight 1A state cross country titles (2011-2014 and 2017-2018) and now ranks tied for fourth all-time for the most coaching state championships amongst Utah cross country coaches.
Among Monticello cross country coaches, Hunt passed RT Nielson with five ladies titles and joins Joe Wolfe Davis with six ladies titles.
Interestingly, there has been a Brewer (Kellen, Jens, Britton) and a Hatch (Collin, Everett, Lucas) on all of Hunt’s state title teams, and a Bird (Tyler, Ryan, and Dylan) on five of those title teams.
Also, with the win, the Monticello boys program now sits as the second most winningest program in Utah cross country history with eleven titles – trailing only Mountain View High School of Orem who holds 15 overall titles.
As with the ladies, the future is bright for the boys, as the team returns five of its top seven state runners. With some luck and a lot of hard work, the team hopes to make it three consecutive state titles and twelfth overall in 2019.