The Rocky Mountain Grizzlies are peaking at the right time. Three Grizzlies and Lady Grizz earned all-conference honors at the 2A West Regional cross country meet at the Foster Gulch Golf Course Friday, and six others joined the top trio in the top 20 at the regional.
“We’re just having steady, slow improvement of 10 to 15 seconds per meet for really every athlete,” coach John Bernhisel said. “That’s all I can hope for.”
Leading the way for the Grizz was junior Skyler Drewes, who placed second and earned all-conference honors (top 10) with a time of 18:14.
“He started a little fast, but that’s OK,” Bernhisel said. “He had a shot at winning, and that’s an awesome time. Skyler is going to run that same kind of race on Saturday (at State). He’ll run with the leaders. If he’s close enough he can take advantage (of a situation or falter).”
Freshman Zach Simmons joined Drewes on the all-conference list with a seventh-place finish, coming across the finish line in 18:39.
“Zach is the highest placing freshman I’ve had in a long time at the regional meet,” Bernhisel said. “He’s in range with a chance to run in the top 10 at State.”
Junior Damon Watts raced for the first time in many weeks after missing time with an injury. He placed 14th, just ahead of teammate Jonathan Allred, a senior, in 15th. Watts ran 20:05, Allred 20:48.
“Damon hadn’t run a meet in probably six weeks,” Bernhisel said. “He was kind of hoping he could run in the top 10, and he was just 50 seconds out of placing. Clearly, he has the talent, but to miss half the season and come back is tough, even for somebody as gifted as he is.
“Johnny also missed a ton of the season.”
Sophomore Justin Dausman placed 19th with a time of 21:10, but that finish, though fifth on the Rocky Mountain team, was big for the Grizz. Rocky tied for second place with Lovell in team points with 38 behind champion Wyoming Indian on Friday, but since Dausman finished with a better time than Lovell’s number five runner, in fact three seconds faster than Lovell’s number four, the Grizzlies placed second on that tie-breaker.
“My mantra is ‘every place counts,’ and Justin was excited and proud, as he should have been,” Bernhisel said.
Sophomore Dominic Estes finished strong and placed 21st with a time of 21:15, and fellow soph Richard Spann placed 26th at 23:39. Senior Alecx Christensen finished 28th at 25:42, sophomore Bryan Jurado 29th at 25:43 and junior Austin Ballard 32nd at 27:49.
“All I’m hoping is to get all I can out of every effort,” Bernhisel said, “so a runner can say ‘I ran my best race today. I gave it my best effort.’ I saw great improvement with Alecx, and with Bryan, too. And Austin Ballard. That’s all I can ask for.”
Rocky’s seven runners at State will be Drewes, Simmons, Watts, Allred, Dausman, Estes and Spann, with Christensen and Jurado as alternates.
Freshman Devin Gilmore earned all-conference honors for the Lady Grizz, placing sixth with a time of 23:09, and Bernhisel was pleased to see her run well.
“Devin had been out since the Billings meet before running in Powell (last week),” he said. “As a freshman she places in the top 10. She’s such a gifted runner. It breaks my heart to wonder what she could have done if she had been out all year.”
A trio of Lady Grizzlies also placed in the top 20 Friday. Junior Makaila Twomey placed 17th with a time of 25:46, freshman Dakota Watts placed 18th at 25:57 and junior Kalley Collins placed 19th, crossing the finish line in 26:14.
“They ran were they’ve been running all year,” Bernhisel said. “This was a tougher course than our course. It was a great effort. They finished strong.”
Senior Abigail Arnold placed 21st with a time of 27:25, and junior Gabie Christensen, coming off an injury, finished 25th at 31:26.
“Abby ran a great race. She ran her best time of the year,” Bernhisel noted. “Every kid who came out and did her best beat every kid who didn’t come out for a sport.”
The Wyoming State Cross Country Meet will take place this Saturday on the grounds of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Sheridan, but sadly, Coach Bernhisel will be unable to attend as he will be attending the funeral of his mother, Janet, in Utah.
“I have great assistants in Tim Jones, Penny Tolman and Mindy Mickelson,” Bernhisel said. “There’s not much I can do during the race anyway. It’s hard on me, but we’ve worked hard all season and they’re ready to go. I couldn’t be happier with where they’re at.”
The order of events Saturday is as follows:
10:30 a.m. – 3A boys
11 a.m. – 2A boys
11:30 a.m. – 4A boys
noon – 3A girls
12:30 p.m. – 2A girls
1:15 p.m. – 4A girls
By David Peck