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The sun will have barely topped the Wasatch Mountain range when the Deseret Morning News Junior 10k sets off.
Salt Lake City, UT – Many high school runners, in an effort to shake up their summer mileage or take a quick measure of their fitness, will hop in a local road race to see how they stack up against the neighborhood competition. But the annual Deseret Morning News Junior 10k in Salt Lake City, Utah is far more than a mid-summer opportunity to rub elbows with the local road warriors. With recent fields featuring Footlocker finalists like A.J. Acosta and Matt Tebo, the high school-only section of the 10k is quickly becoming a premier off-season event for prep harriers.
This year’s version promises more of the same. With an elevation drop of 700 feet—from 4900 feet at the start to 4200 feet at the finish—and a 6 am start time to avoid temperatures forecast to reach the upper 90’s by afternoon, expect the times as well as the temps to be sizzling.
Race organizers have recruited teams to represent the state of Utah against squads gathered from nearby Rocky Mountain and Southwestern states and deemed USA All-Stars. While the team rivalries provide some friendly interstate competition, it’s the individual match-ups that offer the most intriguing look into who’s in shape and who’s on the rise heading into the 2007 cross country season.
The boys’ side features the deeper field, with three Footlocker finalists from 2006 scheduled to compete. Taylor Farnsworth of Pocatello, Idaho is on the USA All-Star team. The recent Highland High grad was an Idaho State cross country, 1600 and 3200 champion, and 13th at Footlocker Nationals. Ben Johnson of Albuquerque, New Mexico is also a member of the USA All-Star team. A rising senior, Johnson finished a surprising 6th at Footlocker Nationals after qualifying via his runner-up placing at the Nike Team Nationals race. He’s the top returner to Footlocker this year, and could be tough to beat in this race if he’s ready to roll.
The leading runner on the Utah team is the third Footlocker finalist in the field, Jared Ward of Kaysville, Utah. A recent graduate of Davis High School, Ward has a 9:05 3200m to his credit, a 14:39.10 5000 for third place at the USATF Junior Nationals, and a 22nd place finish at the 2006 Footlocker Nationals. Joining Ward on the Utah team will be George Barlow (Weber High, Ogden, UT; state 5A runner up 3200 meters, class of 2008), Nate Fletcher (Timpview High School, Provo, UY - 4:27 miler as a sophomore; class of 2009) and possibly Steve Clark (Skyline High - State 5A cross country champion, 4:17 miler at altitude, class of 2008), although Clark may elect to run for his Skyline team.
Keeping things interesting for the USA boys will be Colorado rising senior Kevin Williams (D'evelyn High School, Lakewood, CO - Colorado State 1600m/3200m Champion; Great Southwest 3200m Champion -9:10; Golden West 3200m Champion- 9:05). Williams beat both Ben Johnson and Jared Ward at the Great Southwest 3200, so if nothing else, this road race is shaping up to be a rematch of that earlier track action. Additional members of the USA All-Star squad are Patrick Casey (Laurel, MT- Montana 4A mile champion and runner-up state cross country; class of 2008) and Hayden Hohnholt (Wyoming State 2A cross country champion, class of 2009). If Farnsworth, Johnson and Williams all compete for the USA squad, they certainly look like a solid bet for the team title.
On the girls’ side, the top returner from last year’s 10k is Lone Peak High rising senior Kacee Hildebrandt, who ran 37:20 to place 2nd in 2006. A member of Team Utah, Hildebrandt also has a third place finish at the 2006 Utah 5A state cross country meet to her credit. Placing fifth at last year’s 10k was recent Judge Memorial graduate Samantha McMillan, the 2007 Utah State 3A 800m, 1600m and 3200m champion with PR's of 2:09 in the 800, 4:56 in the 1600m (at altitude) and 10:56 in the 3200m (at altitude).
McMillan and Hildebrandt give Utah a tough 1-2 punch, and if Davis High prodigy Candace Eddy (4:47 mile, state 5A mile and two mile champion, winner of Great Southwest 1500 in 4:32, 3rd at Arcadia in 1600, all while only a sophomore) decides to run with the Utah squad instead of her Davis High School team, fans could see a Utah sweep. Other members of the Utah squad include Hailey Knettles (McMillan’s teammate at Judge Memorial) and Sarah Callister (Ogden High, Ogden, UT - runner up in 3A two mile, class of 2008).
Charged with the tough task of representing the USA against this formidable homestate squad are Amber Henry (Mt. View, WY- state 2A cross country champion, state 400, 800 and 1600 meter champion, class of 2009), Ann Lovelace (Boise, ID – 5A state runner-up 3200 -11:09.84; class of 2008), and Erica Wendt (Idaho Falls, ID - 5:04 miler from Skyline High).