The distance between the Desert Hills and Pine View boys cross country teams has narrowed. At least, that’s what Region 9 coaches tend to think this early on in the 2016 season.
The Thunder convincingly beat the Panthers for both the Region 9 and 3A state titles last year, and Desert Hills is the favorite to do both again — just not by as much.
“You’ve got to give props to a team that’s thrown down three straight state titles and they’re the favorite, but we’ve closed the gap on them a little bit,” Pine View coach Dave Holt said.
Desert Hills has won four straight Region 9 championships. Four of the Thunder’s top seven runners last year graduated, and coach Logan Fielding says they’re not as deep as they have been, but they still have a strong core. They’re not rebuilding, they’re just reloading.
“Jaden Melendrez, Spencer Ford and Bryson King, those three are three of the top runners in the region and the state,” Fielding said. “They’ll be the three that’ll really lead the group.”
Fielding said he’s impressed by Pine View’s depth, which is something Holt is touting as the Panthers’ big strength this year even after the graduation of lead runner Nick Hill.
“We’re looking to get seven guys in the top 10 at region and that’ll be very tough, but that’s a goal that we could reach,” Holt said.
Holt expects junior Carson Horspool and new sophomore Julien Canales to be pivotal for the Panthers this year. Both Holt and Fielding said their teams have separated themselves from the rest of Region 9 the past couple years. With that in mind, Cedar is expected to finish third in the region.
Four of the top seven Cedar runners at the state championship graduated, which leaves the Redmen with plenty of work to do to catch up and hold their own. Jensen Lambert, Brennon Baldwin and Coy Einfeldt are the top returners for Cedar.
The other intriguing question is who takes fourth place. Hurricane has added a former Idaho state champion, Snow Canyon’s brought in more runners on the team and Dixie coach Paul Durrant said his boys team has improved from last year.
The Region 9 cross country championships are scheduled for Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. at the Bloomington Hills North Park South Course. The state championships are scheduled for Oct. 19 at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City at 12:30 p.m.
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