The Lovell Bulldogs enjoyed a balmy day as they tackled the hilly course in Afton for the 3A West Regional cross country meet Friday afternoon.
Two Lovell runners placed in the top 10 to earn all-conference honors, and two others finished in the top quarter of the racers as Lovell went head to head with host Star Valley, Jackson, Cody, Lander, Powell and Mountain View.
Senior AJ Dickson placed fifth with a time of 17:53 and ran well, Coach Caleb Sanders said.
“He’s running really good,” Sanders said. “He’s pretty strong mentally and physically and is one of the better runners in 3A and was running against some very strong runners. He held his own in 3A. I’m proud of him.”
Junior Jacob Newman was in the top 10 for a while, then fell back and finished 17th with a time of 18:47.67.
“I was hoping Jacob would be up there,” Sanders said. “He had some pain and breathing issues. It just wasn’t a good day for him. I would like him to be all-conference, but it wasn’t to be.”
Freshman Brent Snyder placed 22nd out of 99 runners, running the course in 19:20.58, a solid performance, Sanders said.
“Brent ran good for a freshman,” the coach said. “He ran a strong race and moved up and didn’t get passed during the race.”
Senior Andrew Mayes placed 49th for the Bulldogs, running a time of 20:36.31.
Three freshmen were the next three finishers for the Bulldogs. Ben Cornia ran 21:40.17 (73rd), Will Lillard ran 21:52.61 (76th) and Kyle Wolvington ran 22:05.60 (78th).
“Ben Cornia stepped up and earned a spot on the state team,” Sanders said, noting that the team can take seven runners to State. “He was fighting for the seventh spot and ends up fifth. Kyle and Will had earned spots, and Ben and Joey (Bassett) were vying for the seventh spot.”
Bassett ran 22:46.47, Chance Wilson 29:22.19.
The Lovell boys placed sixth in Afton with 126 points, well ahead of Powell with 191 points. Star Valley won the title with 32 points followed by Jackson with 69 points, Cody 84, Lander 102, Mountain View 105 and Lovell.
In the girls race, junior Jaclyn Caldwell placed seventh with a time of 21:34.75 to earn all-conference honors.
“I was happy she got all-conference,” Sanders said. “I think she has a better race in her. She was uncomfortable Friday. It was one of those races where you have to grit for three quarters of it.
“I think running at a high altitude was an issue. I think we struggled with that a little bit more than I anticipated. I ask the runners at the end, ‘Legs or lungs?’ The feedback I got was lungs. We’re not used to that. It impacts every runner, but if teams train at that altitude…”
Caldwell ran in sixth place at the head of a pack for much of the race before Eiraenn O’Connor of Jackson passed her near the end.
“I could see that building up the whole second loop,” Sanders said, “like she was saying, ‘Can I fend off the runners trying to pass me?’ That’s not how she usually runs. Sometimes you don’t feel good and some crumble under that, but some are like Jackie and just grit their teeth.”
Sanders said junior Afton George solidified her status as the team’s second runner, finishing 46th with a time of 26:19.53. Sophomore Jazmyn See ran 27:13.88 (52nd), junior Jamie Kite 27:56.98 (55th), sophomore Mylee McArthur 30:21.66 (60th) and freshman Hannah Sawaya 36:35.33.
The Lovell girls placed seventh out of seven teams with 163 points. Jackson won the meet with 30 points followed by Star Valley at 64, Powell 92, Cody 93, Mountain View 127 and Lander 155.
The Bulldogs will travel to Sheridan Saturday for the state cross country meet at the Veterans Administration Hospital grounds. There are six races, 2A through 4A, girls and boys.
Here’s Saturday’s schedule:
10:30 a.m. – 3A Girls
11 a.m. – 2A Girls
11:40 a.m. – 4A Girls
12:10 p.m. – 3A Boys
12:40 a.m. – 2A Boys
1:10 p.m. – 4A Boys
“Our boys have to do better to compete as a team,” Sanders said. “We’ll have to move up.”
Sanders said the team will taper this week to get ready for the race.
“We’ve got to recover and refresh and wake up the legs,” he said of this week’s practice goals.
By David Peck