TWIR9: Of X-country champions and football, soccer playoffs

COMMENTARY — Wednesday afternoon, the cross country world (in Utah, anyway) descended upon Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City. More than 1,000 high school-aged runners (538 boys and 505 girls) crossed the finish line at the Utah state cross country championships.

The runners hailed from large places (Orem, Ogden, West Jordan) and small places (Tintic, Whitehorse, EskDale*) and many others in between, including racers from the seven schools that comprise Region 9 — Dixie, Cedar, Hurricane, Pine View, Desert Hills, Snow Canyon and Canyon View. As recorded in yesterday’s article, our southern Utah teams did pretty well. The Desert Hills boys won the 3A team championship, while Byron Warby of Pine View was the fastest finisher from Region 9, placing second among the 3A boys. Park City took the girls title, but Cedar finished second and Lady Red runner Aimee Bryson was the top finisher among 3A girls.

runnersAll the runners from southern Utah should be commended for their efforts and dedication. As Warby put on his Facebook page, “Three hours a day, six days a week, 48 weeks a year for the past four years! And there’s no other thing I’d rather be doing. Love these people, love this sport!”

Last year, I wrote a column on the special kind of crazy it takes to be a distance runner. That article (read it here) addresses the motivation of a runner pretty well, but as the results streamed in from the state meet, I started to wonder about the motivation of the people putting on the massive event.

Think about it: 1,043 runners zip through a three-mile course. The very fastest runners, Connor McMillan from American Fork and Conner Mantz from Sky View, crossed the finish line in almost exactly 15 minutes (McMillan, the overall winner, had a time of 15:04.1). The absolute slowest runners (the Sue Hecks of Utah) came across at about 31 minutes. So, in a 16-minute window, all 1,043 competitors cruised across the line.

At least, that’s what I thought. Then, I studied some of the paperwork teams had to fill out for the race. As it turns out, there wasn’t one big race at state. There were 10 smallish races, beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at about 4 p.m. Everyone ran the same course on the same day, but not all at once. I’m sure it was still a logistical nightmare, made easier with the advent of bar codes on runners’ bibs. For the 3A races, there were 124 boys (whose race started at 2:30 p.m.) and 123 girls (who ran at 12:30 p.m.).

The top 3A runner, Garrett Marsing of Carbon, finished at about 16 minutes. The slowest 3A boy came in at about 25 minutes. The girls’ range was similar at 18-29 minutes. That’s still a lot of kids to keep track of, with no tolerance for screw-ups by the officials. So, again, congrats to the runners. But also, congrats to the race officials for making it happen.

region-9-footballThe football playoffs are starting to come into focus, with one final regular-season game to decide who goes where in the first round.

Dixie, even with one game left, has locked up the top seed and will have a bye next week, regardless of what happens in the Flyers battle with Snow Canyon Friday night. Pine View, which has a bye this week, is also locked into their spot, No. 2, and will also take off Week 1 of the playoffs.

That’s all we know for sure in the 3AA South. Here are some scenarios for the other five teams in the region:

Desert Hills (6-2 overall, 3-2 in region) — The Thunder are the third seed if they beat Hurricane Friday or if Snow Canyon loses to Dixie. If the reverse happens, DH would fall to the fourth seed. Either way, Desert Hills will have a home playoff game next week. Outlook: Likely 3rd seed, home playoff game vs. 3-5 Uintah.

Snow Canyon (6-2, 3-2) — The only way the Warriors can move up is to beat Dixie and have Desert Hills lose at home to Hurricane. SC cannot move down, so it’s the 3 or the 4 for Snow Canyon. Like DH, the Warriors for sure get a home playoff game next week. Outlook: Likely 4th seed, home playoff game vs. 2-6 Tooele.

Cedar (3-6, 1-4) — A win at Payson Friday clinches the fifth seed, regardless of whether or not Hurricane beats Desert Hills. If the Redmen lose and the Tigers win, Hurricane would get the fifth seed and Cedar and Payson would have a play-in game, probably Tuesday at a neutral field. If both Cedar and Hurricane lose, there would be a three-way tie for fifth place, with two playoff spots available. According to the region handbook, there would be three-way coin toss, with the winner taking the sixth seed and the two losers meeting up for a play-in game on a neutral field to see who would get the fifth seed. Outlook: Likely 5th seed, trip to 3-6 Park City in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Hurricane (1-8, 1-4) — For the Tigers, a win at Desert Hills Friday would be huge and would guarantee them the fifth seed if Cedar loses at Payson or the sixth seed if Cedar wins that game. If Hurricane loses to DH, they are either the sixth seed (if Cedar beats the Lions) or will face the aforementioned play-in scenario, coin tosses and all. Outlook: Likely 6th seed, trip to 6-3 Bear River in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Payson (1-8, 0-5) — The Lions’ only hope is to beat Cedar Friday. If they do, they’ll have a play-in game with Cedar (if Hurricane beats Desert Hills) or the previously talked about coin toss scenario if DH beats Hurricane.

A quick note on the coin toss: When three teams are involved, the principals of the three schools will meet and toss a coin simultaneously. The “odd man out” is awarded the sixth seed, while the other two then decide on a mutually agreeable place to hold a play-in game Tuesday night. The winner would be the fifth seed. It’s possible, though unlikely, that all three coins land on the same side. If so, the principals would toss again until there is an odd man out. If Payson is involved in the play-in game, it is unlikely they would agree to travel anywhere south of Fillmore. My guess is if it’s a Payson-Hurricane game, there’s a chance the two teams could play at SUU’s Eccles Coliseum. If it’s Payson-Cedar, Millard High School may be the best locale. A Cedar-Hurricane pairing may send the game to Pine View or Dixie. The winner of the play-in game would have to turn around and play at Park City Saturday.

A sneak glance at the second round of the playoffs (and this is pretty much just speculation at this point) could see Dixie hosting the Cedar-Park City winner, Pine View hosting the Bear River-Hurricane winner, Juan Diego hosting the Snow Canyon-Tooele winner and Stansbury hosting the Desert Hills-Uintah winner.

3AA South Standings

3AA South Stat Leaders

If playoffs started today:
1st Round Byes — Dixie, Pine View, Juan Diego, Stansbury
3AA S 3rd seed Desert Hills would host 3AA N 6th seed Uintah
3AA S 4th seed Snow Canyon would host 3AA N 5th seed Tooele
3AA S 5th seed Cedar would play at 3AA N 4th seed Park City
3AA S 6th seed Hurricane would play at 3AA N 3rd seed Bear River

region-9-soccer-girlsIn soccer, Region 9 has advanced two teams into the state semifinals, which are Friday at Jordan High School in Sandy.

Dixie, which went 11-0-1 in region play, outscored two opponents in the playoffs 11-0. The opening-round game Wednesday was all Dixie as the Lady Flyers beat up on Tooele 8-0. The quarterfinal match was a little closer as Uintah made the long trek from the Uintah Basin and held Dixie to a 1-0 halftime score. The Flyers turned it up in the second half, pulling away for a 3-0 victory.

Dixie, which has shut out five of its last six opponents and has only given up one goal in the entire month of October, faces Park City at 3:45 p.m. Friday. Coach Burt Myers said his back line of defenders is unmatched in the state, plus goalkeeper Liz Empey has stopped just about anything that has gotten through.

“This is truly a team,” he said. “These girls learned their roles on the tam and are fulfilling them to a T. There are no egos here, just a family that wants to win.”

The other semifinal pits region runner-up Cedar against the always powerful Juan Diego Soaring Eagle, the Region 10 champion. Cedar won at Region 12 champ Payson, 1-0. The Cedar-Juan Diego game is at 6 p.m., also at Jordan HS.

* — From the cross country section, yes, there is a town and a high school called EskDale. I hadn’t heard of it either, but it’s apparently in eastern Millard County, near the Nevada border. The fighting Soldiers (nope, not kidding) are a 1A school competing in Region 18. EskDale had five boys competing at state, including senior Hector Torres, who placed 34th in 1A. The Soldiers girls team (soldierettes, or is it WACs?) had two runners at state, freshman Lauren Pelfreyman and sophomore Tina Heyward, who placed 38th and 45th, respectively.

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