ST. GEORGE — Movie makers would have rejected the story of Desert Hills and its phenomenal track team. They would have said it wasn’t plausible. The Thunder were just too dominant to believe.
The Region 9 Track Championships took place Wednesday and Thursday at Hurricane High, with the Desert Hills boys track team turning the event into its own celebration by dominating the two days like no team has ever done. D-Hills won 11 of the 16 varsity boys events and scored what most long-time track observers believe is a record of 244 points. The next closest team, Hurricane, had 108 points.
The Thunder had at least the top two finishers in 7 of the 13 individual events, with Braden Reber, Blake Kvarfordt and Chandler Swaney all winning two gold medals.
“We have a good, deep consistent group,” said Dace Goulding, the Desert Hills boys coach. “We just hit all our events really well. One of our goals was to hit 200 at region, but we had no idea we were going to go 250 possibly. To think that every event we scored those kinds of points is really a testament to how hard we’ve worked.”
Reber showed he is the region’s fastest young man, sprinting to wins in the 100-meters and the 200-meters, plus he anchored the DH 4×100 relay team that dashed home with the gold. Reber’s 100-meter came by one-hundredth of a second over teammate Swaney, who got his own gold in the long jump and high jump.
“We’ve been training a lot, but mainly we have fun,” Swaney said. “It’s good competition (at state) and I love competition. I think our team will do really good if they just keep training and having fun.”
Kvarfordt, the defending-state champion in the shot put and discus, was impressive in taking those two events this week. He won the discus by more than 23 feet over teammate Lavala Tamanuvau with a fling of 158-feet, 3-inches. Kvarfordt won the shot put with a throw of 50-2, beating Hurricane’s Jordan Ence by six feet.
“A lot of it is what goes on in your head,” Kvarfordt said. “The more you practice, the better you get at it. When people watch me, they think it’s easy. Let me tell you something, it takes work.”
Other gold medal winners for Desert Hills include Austin Drew in the javelin, Caleb Whitney in the 110-meter hurdles and Zak Fuchs in the 300-meter hurdles. In the 3,200-meters, the Thunder had the top four finishers, including gold medalist Joshua Thatcher, followed by Josh McPhie, Ben Powell and John McPhie.
“Our distance corps is a good group of strong runners,” Goulding said. “We’ll definitely miss our senior distance kids.”
Bryan Pearson shone the brightest among the non-Thunder, winning two gold medals for Cedar High. He also set a region record in winning the 800-meters, finishing in a time of 1:55.37, a couple of seconds ahead of Hurricane’s Nephi Eschler. Pearson’s other gold was in the 1,600, which he won by more than nine seconds over a pair of Pine View runners, Taylor Abel and Byron Warby.
Cedar also took the gold in the boys sprint medley relay, with Pearson anchoring the team with Ty Bulloch, Bodrey Allred and Dallin Trotter.
Brayden Riding won the gold in the 400-meters for Dixie High with a time of 51.41, just .16 ahead of Pearson. The final gold and the last event of the meet went to Dixie as well, with Riding, Jacob Beers, Jaden Harrison and Ike Urquhart teaming up to take the 4×400.
Heading into state, Goulding said DH will be slight underdogs to a dynamic Richfield team, which moved up from 2A to 3A this past offseason.
On the girls side, Cedar out-distanced Desert Hills to win the team title. The Lady Reds were impressive in the field events, winning the discus, high jump and shot put, plus grabbing gold in the 100-meters and the 4×100 relay.
Cedar’s Brooklyn Shakespeare won the 100, barely edging DH’s Abby Taylor. Shakespeare was the anchor on the Cedar gold 4×100 team that included Tenille Rhodes, Holly Carpenter and Megan Taylor, which just beat the Snow Canyon relay team.
Cedar’s gold in discus went to Dante Togisala. In the high jump, Lady Red Morgan Myers won it and Marley Fakahua took the shot put for CHS.
Desert Hills actually won more gold medals than Cedar, but didn’t have the depth to overcome the Lady Reds in the team scores. Gold medalists for the Lady Thunder include Olivia Leavitt in both the 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles, Abby Taylor in the 200-meters and the long jump, Courtney Allred in the 800-meters and Alexa Goulding in the javelin.
Hurricane crowned region champs in four events. Kamryn Watts took gold in two of those, the 1,600 and the 3,200. Hurricane also won two of the three relays, capturing top honors in the medley relay and the 4×400.
Canyon View’s Melissa Kunz snagged the only gold medal for her team, taking the 400-meters.
The teams will now prepare for the state track meet, which takes place May 16-17 at BYU.
For full meet results, click here.
Video produced by Dallas Griffin
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