EHS x-country teams shine at Evanston Invitational

Red Devil runners Bryan Baxter (left) and Paul Baxter complete the first loop at the Evanston Invitational Friday at Purple Sage Golf Course. The Baxter brothers finished first and second for the meet, with Paul claiming the top spot, and Bryan finishing runner-up. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Baxter brothers 1-2; Barton, Day tops for girls

The Evanston High School cross country teams made the most of their home-field advantage Friday, with both the Red Devils and Lady Devils earning spots in the Top 10 of their respective races at the annual Evanston Invitational, held at Purple Sage Golf Course.

Team results weren’t official, according to EHS head coach Nate Conrad, but had they been, the Red Devils and Lady Devils would have easily swept the team titles, with a combined 11 Top 10 finishes. This year’s field was deeper than in years’ past, with seven teams competing: Along with Evanston, Rock Springs, Mountain View, Lyman, Green River, Jackson and Manila, Utah, also made the trip.

“It was a great day, good weather, great conditions, we had some really great competition,” Conrad said. “The last couple of years, it’s been a smaller meet — we were able to get a couple more schools. Green River was here last year, and they came back again this year, and we got Rock Springs back, and Jackson was really fun to see them come and race, so it was a great day.”

Of the Top 10 boys’ finishers, five were Red Devils, led by a 1-2 finish by brothers Paul and Bryan Baxter. Paul finished in the top spot, with a time of 17:03.00, while freshman Bryan wasn’t far behind, with a time of 17:24.20.

“It was kind of a fun race to watch the brothers go back and forth,” Conrad said. “I know Brian has been looking for an opportunity to run up there at the top with his brother, and he took it upon himself that day that he was going to stay on his hip and last as long as he could.”

Seniors Jamar McDowell (17:55.40), and Gideon Stahl (18:13.40) finished fourth and seventh, respectively, while Gideon Stahl placed seventh (18:29.20). Aidan Conrad rounded out Evanston’s Top 10 finishers, placing eighth, with a time of 18:21.70.

“We’re hoping we can get our top five feeling healthy,” Conrad explained. “Bryan and Paul are going to do what they’re going to do, they’re pretty consistent that way. I kind of pulled Jamar, Gideon and Aidan aside this week and talked with them and said ‘Hey, whatever we do as a team this season, it’s going to come down to what Paul and Bryan’s performances are going to be like — try and close that gap at supporting Paul and Brian up at the top.’ So we’re working to do that.”

Finishing in the Top 20 were a solid mix of younger kids and seasoned veterans, led by freshman Breck Barton (18:53.00) and junior Justin Moon (19:04.00), who finished 11th and 12th, respectively. Senior Jamison Williams was 15th (19:20.10) and sophomore Dallin Horrocks was 17th (19:25.80).

“The Top 5 on the boys’ side is pretty set, “ Conrad said. “The No. 6 and No. 7 runners are where we’ve kind of gone back and forth for most of the season. it’s been Barton and Horrocks, and now Justin had a really really great race. Jamison Williams is one of our other seniors that we relied on this season, but he started the season off with some injuries. So that sixth and seventh spot, we’re still scratching our heads, figuring out who that’s going to be. It’s great to be at this part of the season, where we’re getting to the end of things and have options.”

On the girls’ side, Lady Devil freshman Julia Barton gave eventual winner Isabelle Murdock from Green River some solid competition, placing fourth with a time of 21:39.90 (Murdock clocked in at 21:24.30).

“Watching the girls come in to the finish, we were really pleased — from top to bottom — with everyone,” Conrad said. “Julia Barton was our top finisher — she’s one of our top runners, started the season out a little banged up, a little injured, so we slowly brought her along. We envision her being one of our front runners.”

Eliza Day (21:46.00) and Jasmine Tapia (21:52.70) finished fifth and sixth, respectively, while Jocelyn Capener (21:56.50) crossed the finish line in seventh place. Freshman Hallie Prete (22:24.10) and sophomore Liesl Botts (22:41.90) also notched Top 10 finishes, placing ninth and 10th, respectively.

“Our other top ten finishers were Eliza Day, Jasmine Tapia, Jocelyn Capener, and Hallie Prete — another freshman girl who’s put in a really good season, from start to finish,” Conrad said. “Liesl Botts — who has been around the program the last couple of years — she’s starting to mature into that potential fifth runner for us.”

A few of the younger Lady Devils also made the most of their time to shine on their home course. Freshman Avery Barker finished 12th, posting a time of 23:16.60, while fellow freshman Kessnie Johnstone was 20th, with a time of 23:40.60.

“We’ve got options, because just beyond the Top 10, Avery Barker came in 12th, so we’re looking strong,” Conrad said. “That top varsity squad is starting to come into formation. and we’re starting to see it solidified.”

The EHS cross country teams are on the road to Rock Springs Friday for the final meet of the regular season.

“After Rock Springs we go to regionals, and we just take our top 14 runners for that race,” Conrad said. “Then after that we whittle it down even smaller, for state.”