CEDAR CITY – For the Desert Hills boys track team, it was yet another day of dominance. For the Thunder girls, it was a first. Either way, both D-Hills teams were crowned as Region 9 champions Thursday in Cedar City.
Led by hurdle champ Carter Reynolds and “fastest man” Bradley Earl, the Desert Hills boys sprinted away with the big win at the region meet, scoring 215 points. Led by distance runner Jensen Lambert, winner of both the 1600 and 3200 meters, Cedar finished second on its home track with a score of 121. The Armstrong brothers, sophomore Caleb and senior Caden, went first and second in the 800 meters to help Hurricane capture third with 103 points. Pine View was fourth with 88, Snow Canyon fifth with 49 and Dixie sixth with 31.
It is the fifth straight region championship for Desert Hills, which will also go for its fifth straight state 3A title next week at BYU’s Robison Stadium.
For the Desert Hills girls, sophomores Bailey Brinkerhoff and Samantha Nelson were first and second in the 3200 meters and the Lady Thunder outdistanced Cedar 228-171. The DH girls also won the 4X100 relay, and got golds from Elly Williams (discus and shot put), Morgan Myers (long jump), Jessica Harris (high jump) and Kaylee Carter (javelin and 300-hurdles).
“Our coach just told us to go for it and try to win as many places as we could today,” said Brinkerhoff, who finished the 3200 with a time of 11:16.30. “I felt really good out there. The first mile was really fast and then we kind of got in a rhythm. Our goal this year is to take state, but in order to do that, we have to beat Cedar and win region.”
Cedar is the defending state 3A girls champion.
As for the boys, no team has dominated like the Desert Hills team. Winners of four straight state championships, the Thunder seem poised to do it again. D-Hills took first at the region meet in eight events (out of 16 total) and had top-three placers in almost all the others. The speedster Earl, a senior, ran the 100 in 11.02 against a 3.8-miles per hour wind, then turned around 30 minutes later and beat the field to take the 200 with a time of 22.19, also against the wind.
“There was a bit of a head wind, so I knew I needed to have my starts be really good,” Earl said. “I was focusing on that and also staying relaxed throughout the race. We’re focused on state and very excited. We’ve won four years in a row and we’re looking for No. 5. I’ve been a part of this team through my whole high school experience and am looking forward to finishing it off right.”
Carter Reynolds, a junior for the Thunder, proved to be the hurdle master, winning both the 110-meter hurdles (15.03) and the 300-hurdles (39.94). That’s nothing new for him as he’s been near perfect this season and even beat runners from all classifications in the 110-hurdles last week at the BYU Invitational.
“I know I’m going to win every race I run in, but the main thing is that I like to have fun,” Reynolds said. “There’s one 300 hurdler out there, Josh Thomas (from Richfield), he can beat me, but anything can happen at state.”
Other region champs for the Thunder include sophomore Zachary Marsden in the 400 meters (49.37), junior Tanner Hermann in the discus (142-feet, 7-inches), senior Kaden Broadhead in the high jump (6-feet-4), and the 4X400 relay with Earl, Reynolds, Hunter Holt and Tate Denos.
“I think maybe one other team in the history of Utah has won five straight state titles,” Thunder boys coach Dace Goulding said. “You know what, you have to win five to get to six. We just wanted to go in and do the best we can and keep running PRs (personal records or best times). But it’s going to be close up there at state. There might be four or five teams within 10 points.”
Other winners in the boys events were Jensen Lambert of Cedar, who won both the 1600 and 3200 meters, Trenton Maurer of Cedar in the javelin (179-feet, 8.5-inches), Jacob Mpungi of Pine View in the long jump (21-11.25) and Robert Campbell of Hurricane in shot put 51-1.5. The Snow Canyon relay team won the 4X100 with Johan Castro, Jared Jensen, Gohki Tsuchida and Keivonte Washington. Hurricane’s medley relay team won first with Jaron Cordova, Riley Ballard, Kody Watts and Caleb Armstrong.
Lambert upset region powerhouse Jaiden Melendrez in both the 1600 and the 3200. The two have a friendly rivalry.
“I went from close to the bottom to now being near the top with a lot of work and dedication and a lot of miles,” Lambert said. “When I was just getting started and (Melendrez) was already established, I just looked up to him, like, man I wish I could be dominant like him. So I worked and matured and now he and I are racing up next to each other. He’s such a cool guy. Certainly, there’s a little bit of ‘You beat me this time, watch out next time, I’ll be out for blood.'”
Melendrez, who won both the 1600 and 3200 at state in the 2015 and 2016 season, said the young runners help him in his pursuit of excellence.
“When I was an underclassman, I looked up to a lot of guys and without them, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in,” said Melendrez, who has signed to run for SUU next year. “It’s fun running with guys like Jensen and Caleb (Armstrong). They keep me humble and keep me on my toes.”
Melendrez was forced to take some time off this season after the Dixie Invitational when he was experiencing chest pains. Doctors thought he might have heart problems, but later cleared him to run. The episode gave Melendrez some perspective.
“After a week of not running, I’m just so grateful to be here and to be running,” he said. “Running isn’t everything, but it’s something big in my life and I almost had it taken away. I felt comfortable out there today. But I have another gear in there and I’m saving it for next week. I’m looking forward to defending my titles once again.”
For the girls, Desert Hills got 20 team points each from Williams and Carter as they each won gold in two events. The 4X100 relay team of Rachel Myers, Brooklyn Lott, Hannah Morby and Jessica Bills also took the win. DH also had three of the top four finishers in the high jump with Harris, Morgan Myers and Saselah Goulding.
Cedar stayed close with gold medalists in the 800 and 1600 meters with sophomore Mic Webster (5:07.13), the medley relay team of Alexia Bird, Kalee Brunson, Brinley Hess and Halsey Curry (4:24.10), the 200 and 400 meters with Jasie York (56.40), and the 4X400 with Hess, Bird, Kaysie Klemic and Summer Bryson (4:05.68).
Starlee Woodbury of Dixie continues to be one of the top speed athletes to come through southern Utah in a long time. She won the 100-meters (12.41) and the 100-hurdles (14.99) Thursday and placed second in the long jump. She was fourth in the 100 and second in the 100-hurdles last year at state and hopes to win both events next week.
“I wanted to keep my momentum going at region, but state is my big focus,” she said. “I really want to take state in all three of my event. If not, then at least two. I feel like I’m at my best, I’m peaking. I’ve been almost PR’ing in all my events the last three weeks, so I feel like I am peaking at just the right time.”
The state meet brings all classifications together for a monstrous two-day event next Friday and Saturday at BYU. Last year, more than 240 events were competed between the five classifications.
Region 9 Track and Field Championships
At Cedar High School
Boys team scores
1. Desert Hills, 215
2. Cedar, 121
3. Hurricane, 103
4. Pine View, 88
5. Snow Canyon, 49
6. Dixie, 31
Girls team scores
1. Desert Hills, 228
2. Cedar, 171
3. Dixie, 82
4. Pine View, 49.5
5. Hurricane, 42.5
6. Snow Canyon, 39
For full individual event results, go to RunnerCard
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