EHS cross country teams compete at state

Lady Devil sophomore runner Jocelyn Capener finished 18th at Saturday’s 4A State Cross Country Meet, with a time of 20:46.68 (HERALD PHOTO/Kati Baxter)

The 4A State Cross Country Meet was held last Saturday in Ethete, and while the Evanston High School teams finished further back then they would have liked, solid performances were still on display.

“Wyoming Indian — and the Ethete community — put on a great meet,” said EHS head coach Nate Conrad. “It was a lot of fun. It was a great course, and the Friday night festivities were phenomenal — they provided us with a great meal, as well as a great program that highlighted their culture. I think it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those kids.”

The Red Devils finished seventh in the 12-team field, while the Lady Devils finished 10th. Cheyenne Central swept the team titles, with an astounding eight athletes earning All-State recognition.

“Cheyenne Central went into the meet with a purpose — they were going to be pretty tough to beat,” Conrad said. “Central came away with eight All-State athletes — four on the boys’ side, and four on the girls’ — in my 11 years of coaching, I’ve never seen anything like that. For one program to produce eight All-State athletes is phenomenal. They just ran away with it.”

Red Devils senior Kaden Wiley was the top Evanston finisher on the boys’ side, finishing 23rd with a time of 17:22.29.

“Kaden Wiley finished off his career as our top boys’ finisher,” Conrad said. “He was one of the few who did not get to see the course earlier this season — he was unable to make the previous trip. He was kind of running blind for us, and he came away with a great time.”

Lady Devil sophomore Jocelyn Capener had the highest finish of either of the EHS teams, placing 18th, with a time of 20:46.68.

“On the girls’ side, Jocelyn Capener led the way — she posted an amazing time, close to a minute over her previous time,’’ Conrad said. “She finished 18th overall, which was the top finish of any of our athletes. She was followed by a surprising effort by Eliza Day, who also had an amazing race, improving by close to a minute.”

The EHS cross country teams were familiar with the course, having competed in a meet hosted by Wyoming Indian earlier this season; Conrad said that familiarization with the course enabled just about every one of his runners to improve.

“I was very pleased with the level of effort, and the amount of work the kids put in,” Conrad said. “Of the 14 kids that raced, the majority of them bettered their times from the meet that was held here earlier this season. As a coach, and as a program, that’s a huge positive, and what we love to see.”

Red Devils

“The boys finished in seventh place — a little further back than where we hoped we’d finish,” Conrad said. “We didn’t have the performances that we were hoping for. We were good, but we weren’t perfect.”

Jackson’s Mason Wheeler finished in the top spot for the boys, posting a blistering time of 16:10.45.

For the Red Devils, following Kaden Wiley’s 23rd-place finish was Derek Parks, placing 26th with a time of 17:35.90. Hyrum Baxter was right on Parks’ heels, placing 27th with a time of 17:36.85.

“Hyrum Baxter has been struggling with an illness; he wasn’t 100%,” Conrad said. “But he definitely gave us his full effort on that day, even with his physical limitations. He gave us everything he had. That’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

Red Devil freshman Paul Baxter finished 42nd, with a time of 18:00.06, while senior Kurtis Richins was 50th, with a time of 18:08.84. Tanner Nerwsome (57th, 18:24.48) and Noah Conrad (63rd, 18:50.43) rounded out the Red Devils’ state contingent.

“Derek Parks, Kurtis Richins, Tanner Newsome and Noah Conrad all improved on their previous times,” coach Conrad said. “Like Kaden, Paul Baxter raced the course for the first time, and came away with another great race.”

Lady Devils

Jackson’s Kate Brigham took the top spot for the girls, finishing in a time of 18:38.15. Jocelyn Capener was the top Lady Devils finisher, placing 18th; she was followed by freshman Eliza Day, who finished 38th with a time of 21:39.55.

“The girls finished 10th as a team, but I can definitely see them pushing for the top half of the division next season,” Conrad said. “These rookies will be veterans next season, and with what we have coming up from the middle school, we’re super-excited for what’s coming.”

Lady Devils senior Katy Saxton closed out her high school career with a 44th-place finish, posting a time of 21:54.75. Freshman Liesl Botts placed 48th, with a time of 22:08.68; fellow freshman Jasmine Tapia finished 56th, wirth a time of 22:30.49.

“Katy Saxton followed up her great performance at the conference meet with another solid effort, finishing third on our team,” Conrad said. “Our other freshman girls — Liesel Bott and Jasmine Tapia — both stepped up and finished in the Top 5 of our team. To come away with three girls finishing in the Top 5 as freshmen is a great sign for the future of the program.”

Aubrey Horrocks (61st, 22:47.62) and Talia Conrad (63rd, 23:01.75) rounded out the Lady Devils’ state roster.

“Of the seven girls that competed at state, Katy Saxton is the only one we’ll lose to graduation,” Conrad explained. “All those girls will be back, and with what the middle school program has produced, we’ve got two or three girls that will be freshmen next year that will be great additions. The future is definitely bright for the girls’ side.”

With another season in the books, Conrad was quick to heap praise on the seniors he’ll lose to graduation; the leadership they provided will be instrumental as the programs move forward.

“The seniors we had competing for us this year have been phenomenal,” Conrad said. “We had enough hotel space to bring every senior girl to the state meet — big thanks to coach [Bubba] O’Neill for providing us with that opportunity. The leadership, and the caring and the support they provided for those younger girls was amazing. Some of those younger girls took spots from our seniors at state, but those seniors still made the trip to support and encourage their teammates. We saw that on the boys’ side as well.”

For the Red Devils, the team will bid farewell to David Aros, Noah Conrad, Tanner Newsome, Riley Ovard, Kurtis Richins, Hunter Sims, Kaden Wiley, Junior Zermeno and Madsen May.

“These boys and girls that are seniors are going to be hard to replace,” Conrad said. “And having the opportunity to have my son Noah race as a senior has been a pretty phenomenal experience. I couldn’t be more proud of Noah, and the rest of those seniors — they gave everything they had, all season long. We’ve got some big shoes to fill on the boys’ side.”

The same can be said on the girls’ side.

“Mallory Sepos, Shelyse Ellingford, McKye Carver, Katy Saxton and Linzy Sharp — they were wonderful leaders, as well as great teachers and mentors for the girls that will be back next year,” Conrad said. “The successes that we’re going to see in the next two or three years will be built upon the examples of the great leaders we’ve had this year.”

“That’s part of the legacy of EHS cross country — we’ve had great kids come through, year in and year out, who always become great leaders, when it’s their turn,” Conrad added. “It’s a cycle that just keeps going, and it’s phenomenal to watch as a coach. We’re 100% a family.”

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