Distance Showdown At The State Finals

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Covering my first Utah State meet from a media point of view rather than a biased fan it was an interesting and enjoyable experience watching these races. Thursday morning was bright and clear, with mid 70's temps by the time the races started.  What you don't feel watching on the grassy hill or in the stands is how hot the track gets and that's not just from the competition.  So though not a perfect rendition, I hope this captures some of the excitement of the 2023 Utah State Track and Field finals.  

In this article I'll recap the finals of the major middle distance categories, starting with the ladies of course. 

Girls 3200 meter 5A

The girls' 3200-meter race in the 5A category was a thrilling showdown between three talented athletes: Jane Hedengren, Mari Konold, and Julie Moore. From the start, Mari took the lead and maintained it for the majority of the race. However, Jane made a decisive move with 500 meters remaining, overtaking Konold as they crossed the finish line for the final lap. Representing Timpview, Jane gradually widened the gap between herself and her competitors as they raced down the back straightaway. By the last curve, Jane had extended her lead to an impressive five seconds, finishing at 10:46.77. Mari Konold from Mountain View secured the second position with a time of 10:51.74, closely followed by Julie Moore, also from Mountain View, at 10:52.03 seconds. The remaining scorers in this event were Raygan Peterson, Lydia Beus, Olivia Larsen, Kate Giles, and Graysen Lanenga.

Girls 3200 meter 6A

While there were a couple of notable absences among the early race favorites, Shelby Jensen, Natalie Swain, Hailey Low, and Boston Bybee delivered an exciting performance in the girls' 3200-meter race for the 6A category. Throughout most of the race, Shelby from Westlake HS, Natalie from Bingham HS, and Boston from Lone Peak HS led the pack. However, it was during the final lap that Shelby surged ahead, crossing the finish line with a strong time of 10 minutes, 43.73 seconds. Natalie Swain followed closely behind, finishing at 10 minutes, 46.20 seconds. Surprisingly, Hailey Low from Layton surpassed Boston Bybee in the last lap to claim the third spot. Boston, a talented sophomore, secured the fourth position with a time of 10 minutes, 53.14 seconds. Mya Oyler, Millie Robinson, another impressive sophomore, and the exceptional freshman Marci Havens completed the scoring in this event. Westlake HS showcased an outstanding performance with three top finishers.

Boys 3200 Meter 5A

As anticipated, the 5A boys' 3200-meter race lived up to its reputation, setting the stage for an intense rematch during the 1600-meter race on Saturday. The battle for supremacy began on Thursday morning, with Liam Heninger from Mountain View, JoJo Jourdon from Olympus HS, and Tayson Echohawk from Orem HS consistently leading the pack. However, it was only during the final 800 meters that Echohawk started challenging the other two contenders. With 400 meters to go, Echohawk made a powerful move to the outside, surging ahead on the back stretch. He continued to distance himself from a fading Henninger, who had been leading throughout the race, and overtook JoJo, who had hoped to secure victory. Echohawk established his dominance through the final turn, crossing the finish line just ahead of JoJo and nearly two seconds ahead of his long-time county rival Henninger. These three exceptional runners will undoubtedly push each other to new heights in their future endeavors.

Boys 3200 Meter 6A

Daniel Simmons, a name that has already gained considerable recognition in the running world, showcased his exceptional talent once again in the 6A boys' 3200-meter race. Leading from start to finish, Simmons, representing American Fork, demonstrated his prowess, securing his first championship in this year's Utah State final. Noah Jenkins from Herriman made a valiant effort to challenge Simmons, but he couldn't match the junior's remarkable performance. Simmons crossed the finish line comfortably in first place, with an impressive time of 8:52. Notably, all three top finishers completed the race in under 9 minutes, a remarkable feat considering the altitude of over 4,500 feet. Noah finished second with a time of 8:56, while Spencer Bradshaw claimed the third spot. Other notable performers in this event included William Horen, Jake Seegmiller, Nathan Rummler, and Alex Maxfield.

Friday's 3200-meter finals and Saturday's 1600-meter finals featured several exciting races in different categories.

In the 5A girls' final, Jane Hedengren continued her dominance, securing first place once again with a remarkable time of 4 minutes, 53.82 seconds. Raygan Peterson from Timpanogos and Julie Moore from Mountain View also achieved sub-5-minute times, ensuring an ongoing rivalry between Hedengren and Moore in the coming year.

In the 6A girls' final, Addie Meldrum from Lone Peak triumphed with a time of 4 minutes, 50.91 seconds, narrowly beating her teammate Boston Bybee, who finished in 4 minutes, 51 seconds. Three other athletes, Natalie Swain from Bingham HS (4:55), Emerald Kehr from West HS (4:56.91), and Shelby Jensen from Westlake (4:57.59), also completed the race in under 5 minutes.

The boys' finals witnessed intense competition in both the 5A and 6A categories. In 5A, Tayson Echohawk emerged victorious once again, edging out Liam Heninger and JoJo Jourdon. Their times were remarkably close, with Echohawk finishing in 4:06.97 , Heninger in 4:07.01 seconds, and Jourdon in 4:07.52.

In the 6A boys' final, Daniel Simmons confirmed his status as a top athlete, beating Herriman runners William Steadman and Noah Jenkins. All three athletes achieved respectable times, with Simmons finishing in 4:10 seconds, Steadman in 4:11 seconds, and Jenkins in 4:12. It's clear that these exceptional runners will continue to push each other in future competitions.

In the other girls finals, 4A, Hailey Shakespear, of Green Canyon HS, won the 3200 meter.  And Addison Pettingill of Desert Hills HS won the 1600 Meter final.  In the 3A 3200m, it came down to less then a second, Cadence Kasprick of Grand County leaned to a victory over Jaylie Jenkins of Union.  In the 1600m, Cadence Kasprick easily took the crown.

In the 2A, 3200m and 1600m final it was Kenidee Glazier of Kanab HS.  In the 1A it was Adelaide Englestead of Panguitch HS and freshman Paige Smith of Rich HS in the 1600m.

In the other boys finals, 4A,  3200m and 1600m final, it was Trey Despain of Pine View HS taking both 1st place trophies.  In the 3A, Richard Crane of Richfield HS,  nosed out Paul Squire of Union HS in the 3200m and Crane beat out Paul and newcomer Bryson Ottley of Summit Academy in the 3A 1600m final.   In 2A, brothers Michael Ralphs and Ben Ralphs of Millard HS battled to a photo finish.  The older Ralphs took the first place hardware.  In the 3200m, Michael also took the title as well.  In 1A, Theil Cooke and Rulon Barlow of Water Canyon were only one second apart.  And Rulon Barlow beat David Barlow in the 1600m final.  

In the 800 Meter boys final, the 6A, came down to Kadan Allen of Herriman and Connor Whatcott of Corner Canyon. Allen finished with an impressive 1:52.68 and Whatcott with a 1:53.46. In the 5A, Tayson Echohawk collected his 3rd first-place finish, with a blazing 1:52.17 finish, right in front of sophomore Issac Sohler, 1:52.83. In the 4A, Trey Despain of Pine View equalised Echohawks 3 peat performance taking his 3rd first place medal as well. In 3 A, it almost came down to a photo finish, but Richard Crane, Richfield HS, beat out Bryson Ottley of Summit Academy. In the 2A, the younger Ralphs brother won his first state title, and in 1A, Water Canyon Jr, Rulon Barlow won his second first place medal.

In the 800 meter girls final, Skyridge Sr, Kylie Olsen took first place. 5A, Jane Hedengren took her 3rd first place trophy with a blazing 2:09.62. In the 4A it was Addison Pettingill, from Desert Hills with a 2:20.16, 3A. Two freshman battled it out with Rozlyn Stowe of Carbon HS beating out Addison Pettit of Juan Diego. In the 2A, another freshman Kenidee Glazier of Kanab HS take home the hardware, and in the 1A, Tabetha Henrie of Panguitch HS beats out freshman Paige Smith of Rich.

What impressed me this year were the number of younger classmen who placed really high or outright took hardware that normally goes to senior runners. This years senior class will be missed, some epic battles between runners like Tayson Echohawk and Liam Heninger, or Shelby Jensen and Natalie Swain. But the quesitons for next year. Can anyone challenge Jane Hendengren in the 5A? Same could be said regarding Daniel Simmons in the 6A.  Will Boston Bybee and Millie Robinson who push each other in 6A next year?  We'll see how it all shakes out this summer and into cross country season. Utah distance runners are still one of the more competitve racers in the country.