Region 9 Cross Country Championship, St. George, Utah, Oct. 11, 2016, | Photo by Megan Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – Jaiden Melendrez of Desert Hills ran down Caleb Armstrong of Hurricane in the final 200 yards to win the Region 9 cross country championship at Bloomington Hills Park on Tuesday. The two young men battled throughout the 3-mile race with Armstrong taking the lead with about 800 yards to go.
Melendrez said he had been involved in a five-car accident two hours earlier and suffered a minor case of whiplash.
“I just trusted my training and it paid off,” Melenedrez said. “We do a lot of training on this course, so I knew where to push.”
With Melendrez leading the way with a time of 15:39 to Armstrong’s 15:41, Desert Hills won the team championship with 34 points. Pine View finished with 40 while Hurricane had 66. Cedar finished with 111, Snow Canyon with 134 and Dixie with 187. Spencer Ford of Desert Hills was third with Dallen Gillespie of Pine View fourth and Caden Armstrong of Hurricane fifth.
“It’s been a battle with Pine View all year,” noted Thunder coach Logan Fielding. “It’s fun to see the kids push each other.”
“Our kids ran together,” Fielding continued. “If someone had a bad day, someone else stepped up. That’s what happened today.”
Melendrez finished third in the state last year, with the Thunder boys team running away with its third straight state 3A title at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City. Ford was fifth at state.
In the girls race, Bailey Brinkerhoff of Desert Hills won in 19:02 with teammate Laynee Wells second. But it was Pine View that won the team Region 9 title. The Panthers finished with 34 points to 39 for the Thunder, 61 for Cedar, 107 for Snow Canyon and 138 for Dixie. The top four teams in both races qualified for the Class 3A state meet in Salt Lake City on Oct. 19.
Panther junior Caroline Clements was third with Mic Webster of Cedar fourth and Lily Poulton of DH fifth.
Brinkerhoff said she took charge in the second mile of the race.
“I just had to dig deep and remember my training,” she said. “There are a lot of tough runners in this region. I’m just grateful to come out on top.”
Panthers coach Travis Roberts said his runners showed unity in their efforts Tuesday.
“The key for us was for all of our girls to try to run together and help each other,” he said. “Caroline Clements pushed the pace and was able to finish third. Josie Bushar, Jacey Finch and Addi Baker, our fifth, sixth and seventh girls, were able to work as displacers and push the other teams’ girls down.”
Pine View’s girls team won Region 9 last year, but had to settle for second at state behind Stansbury after a controversial ruling by state officials after several Stansbury runners veered off the designated running course.
Brinkerhoff, just a sophomore, was third at state in 2015. Poulton was fifth a year ago and Wells was 11th at state last year.