It was a perfect day for running Saturday as the Lovell Bulldogs wrapped up the 2014 cross country season at the State Meet in Sheridan on the grounds of the historic Veterans Administration Hospital.
Two Lovell runners earned all-state honors with top-10 finishes in a difficult Class 3A field. Senior AJ Dickson placed seventh out of 100 runners with a personal-record time of 17:12.46, and junior Jaclyn Caldwell placed 10th in the girls race, also with a PR at 19:59.39.
Showing the degree of competition in Class 3A, Dickson would have won the 2A championship by 16 seconds, and Caldwell would have placed third in 2A.
Coach Caleb Sanders was pleased that several of his runners peaked at State, which is always the goal of a running coach.
“You never can get everyone to peak at the same time, but you can get most of them,” Sanders said. “AJ had a PR, and (Kyle) Wolvington. And all but two girls, so I guess we batted about 50 percent. I don’t know if that’s good or not.”
Sanders said Dickson finished his cross country career in style, calling him one of the smartest runners he has coached.
“What impressed me (Saturday) was that he ran the last half of the race on an island, on his own,” the coach said. “Right before the two-mile mark I noticed it. If you don’t have anyone to pace off of or to be pushed by, that’s really tough. It wasn’t until after the race that I realized how difficult it was.
“It’s another mark for AJ. He ran his final race with a lot of determination. The thing we’ll miss the most about him is that the young runners used him as an example to understand ‘that’s how you run a race.’ He is a student of the sport. He reads tons of literature on running. He constantly looks for new and better ways to do things.”
Placing 26th for the Bulldogs was junior Jacob Newman with a time of 18:21.86. Sanders said Newman did well but wasn’t quite in top form the last couple of weeks.
“It may have been end-of-the-season fatigue,” Sanders said. “He wasn’t at his best. He didn’t finish the way he wanted to.
“I’m glad he finished the race. It’s discouraging when you’re not feeling it.”
Freshman Brent Snyder placed 35th with a time of 18:38.99.
“He ran good. I think he could have run faster if he had more familiarity with 3A in terms of who he was surrounded by,” Sanders said. “He definitely pushed himself. That was pretty close to his best time.
“Brent can really grit something out if there’s a rival there, like if someone runs faster that he’s been competitive with. Maybe we should have had him gun for someone.”
Freshman Kyle Wolvington ran a personal record and finished 79th with a time of 20:28.93, the fourth fastest time on the Lovell team.
“He moved up on our team,” Sanders said. “It was nice to see him improve over the course of the year.”
Freshman Will Lillard finished 83rd with a time of 20:45.52, freshman Ben Cornia 90th at 21:23.78, and Sanders said both learned a lot at the meet.
Senior Andrew Mayes finished 91st with a time of 21:29.39 and fell well off the pace he had started with – and for good reason. Sometime during the second mile he turned his ankle and ended up with a painful sprained ankle. But he finished the race.
“It was a fairly severe sprain,” Sanders said. “Andrew’s had a good year, but that was not a good race and I can see why. I’m proud of him for finishing the race.”
The Lovell boys finished ninth overall with 230 points, just three points behind eighth-place Newcastle and ahead of Glenrock, Powell, Torrington, Rawlins, Douglas and Wheatland. Star Valley won the meet with 34 points, beating Jackson by 52 points.
Caldwell all state
Jaclyn Caldwell hung tough with a tough field and placed 10th to earn all-state honors with a time of 19:59.39, her best time.
“It was questionable whether she’d finish in the top 10 (due to the strength of the field),” Sanders said. “I felt she would have to have her best race to do it. It had to be a dynamite race.”
Sanders said Caldwell responded to the challenge.
“Running 19:59 was not possible unless we’re in 3A,” he said. “She was fighting for that top-10 spot. I know she was uncomfortable, but she got pushed to her best.
“She should be happy. We will see some fast track times (in 3A), too.”
Caldwell ran a smart race, Sanders said, running conservatively early well back in the pack, as planned.
“That’s what we wanted her to do and what she wanted to do,” he said. “She wanted to be conservative, but it was a fast conservative. She gradually moved up, which is exactly what the plan was, a plan she embraced.”
Sophomore Jazmyn See moved up during the event and ran a strong race, finishing 70th with a time of 25:08.54, a personal record and the second fastest time on the Lovell squad.
“That was a great surprise,” Sanders said. “She was very happy with her race, and I was, too.”
Juniors Jamie Kite and Afton George finished 76th and 77th with times of 25:42.83 and 25:44.34, respectively.
“That wasn’t their fastest times, but it was a good race for both of them,” Sanders said.
Sophomore Mylee McArthur ran a personal record 27:31.74 to finish 82nd, and freshman Bailey Mitchell was 84th at 28:50.62.
“That was a PR for Mylee,” Sanders said. “It was her best time by at least 40 seconds on this course.”
Sanders said he would like to give a “shout out” to assistant coach Bret George, who he said took on a double role this year, driving the bus for practices and to some meets in addition to coaching.
He said Ben Snyder added a lot to the team as a volunteer assistant coach, saying he was “very motivational for the kids and their runs.”
The Lady Bulldogs placed 12th Saturday out of 12 teams with 294 points, trailing 11th-place Torrington by 19 points. Jackson won the meet with 48 points, beating second-place Cody by 33 points.
By David Peck