Lady Devils 2nd, Red Devils 3rd at Regionals

Lady Devil cross country runner Jasmine Tapia leads the pack en route to a fourth-place finish at last Thursday’s 3A West Regional Meet in Lander. Evanston finished second as a team, with Tapia earning All-Conference recognition for her efforts. (HERALD PHOTO/Kati Baxter)

The Evanston High School cross country teams tackled their toughest course yet at last Thursday’s 3A West Regional Meet in Lander, with the Lady Devils placing second as a team, and the Red Devils placing fourth.

It wasn’t quite the result EHS head coach Nate Conrad had in mind, though in all fairness, it was an unfamiliar course – with a truly gnarly hill situated right in the center of it.

“It was an interesting meet, it was a little tough,” Conrad said. “We were caught by surprise, would be the best way to put it. It was a course we had never seen before – I knew there was a hill on it, but I didn’t know to what extent that hill was. It was probably one of the worst hills I’ve ever seen in a cross country race – definitely a Top 5 hill.”

Monster hill notwithstanding, Evanston had a pair of runners who earned All-Conference recognition: Jasmine Tapia posted a 4th-place finish for the Lady Devils, with a time of 21:13.73, while Hyrum Baxter paced the Red Devils with a time of 17:52.35, good enough for 7th place.

“The course pushed our kids really, really hard,” Conrad said. “I know our kids were kind of disappointed in themselves – they didn’t achieve what they felt like they should have achieved. As a coach, I was not disappointed at all – the level of effort, and the hard work they put into that race was awesome to see. The outcome wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for, but at the same time, it wasn’t something we were planning on. We’ve been a program that has looked at conference titles as, hey if we get them great – if not, that’s OK, because our focus is on this weekend, and what we’re going to do at state.”

The EHS cross country teams return to familiar terrain for Saturday’s 3A State Meet: Wyoming Indian High School in Ethete, site of last year’s state meet, as well as a state preview meet in September.

“Knowing the course gives us the assurance that the kids are ready, and know what to expect,” Conrad said. “We had a bit of a hiccup last year at state, where we ran the course wrong – we went into September’s preview meet with the attitude that we’re going to find a different way to run the course, and we came away with some really fast times. We’re really excited to get back to it. We’re ready to toe the line, and match up with the other teams in the state, and see what we can do.”

As for his expectations headed into Saturday’s meet, Conrad said if his teams can maintain the level of intensity they’ve shown throughout the season, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

“We don’t need to do anything different than we’ve already done this year,” Conrad said. “The kids have put in a lot of work, they’ve put in a lot of effort and we’ve trained for this moment. Everything we’ve done all season long has prepared us for what’s going to happen on Saturday. If we show up, and we’ve raced well and had some great performances, I’m going to be excited. The message is to just keep doing what we’ve been doing all season long, and that will get us to where we need to be.”

Lady Devils

Cody won the team title at Thursday’s 3A West Regional Meet, with a score of 35. Evanston was second with 65 points, followed by Powell in third (81 points) and host Lander in fourth (87 points). Green River rounded out the Top 5, with a score of 129.

“We still had a few lingering illnesses on the girls’ side, but even with that, they ended up taking second place overall, just behind Cody,” Conrad said. “We would have liked to have been a little closer to the Cody score, but due to a couple of girls still coming off of illnesses and injury, some of the girls weren’t at peak performance. I think we’ll see a different story coming into state.”

Jasmine Tapia ran her best race of the season to take 4th place and earn All-Conference honors, the only Lady Devil to finish in the Top 10.

“Jasmine Tapia was our top finisher at fourth overall, so she also earned All-Conference recognition,” Conrad said.

“That’s great for her, she’s one of the ones I’ve been most excited about. I call her a ‘Quiet Assassin,’ she shows up, puts in the work, gives her best effort in everything, but there’s always been other girls ahead of her. But she’s continued to get stronger, and now she’s to the point where she’s kind of taken on the role of our No. 1. I think she has the experience now that she knows she can run up front, and that’s great. She ended up beating some girls she’s never beaten before, so she came away with a really good foundation heading into state. We’re super-excited for her.”

Sophomore Eliza Day was second among the Lady Devils, placing 11th, with a time of 21:49.12. Jocelyn Capener (22:20.60) and Aubrey Horrocks (22:29.61) finished 15th and 16th, respectively, while Emma Lonsway rounded out Evanston’s Top 5, placing 26th, with a time of 22:52.56.

Liesl Botts (28th, 23:17.34), Talia Conrad (42nd, 24:33.76), Bella Dover (45th, 25:01.37) and Savannah Winfield (50th, 25:31.69) represented the rest of the Lady Devils’ varsity contingent.

Red Devils

On the boys’ side, Mountain View – led by 1st-place finisher Owen Burnett, of Kemmerer – finished in the top spot, with a score of 45, followed by Cody in second, with a score of 68. The Red Devils were third, with a score of 81, followed by Riverton (112 points) in fourth and host Lander (114 points) rounding out the Top 5.

Hyrum Baxter continued his stellar senior season by earning All-Conference honors in his final regional meet, placing seventh, with a time of 17:52.35.

“Hyrum has really done a great job this year – he’s had a really good full season,” Conrad said. “There have been times in the past that he’s had a great start to the season, but something would come up that prevented him from excelling the rest of the year. This year, we’re seeing him get even stronger as the year progresses, so I’m excited to see what he does this weekend at state.”

Sophomore Paul Baxter finished 15th, with a time of 18:26.49, while Jamar McDowell continued his breakout season, placing 17th, with a time of 18:42.60. Jaydon Welling (18th, 18:43.58), Gideon Stahl (25th, 19:05.46) and Aidan Conrad (26th, 19:06.18) rounded out Evanston’s Top 6.

Braezden Mecham (29th, 19:08.24) was expected to finish somewhere around the Top 10 for the Red Devils, but a mishap at the starting line resulted in the senior running the race with just one shoe.

“We’re not exactly sure where it came from – I’m suspecting it was a teammate casualty,” Conrad said. “Someone behind Braezden stepped on the back of his heel and gave him a flat tire – that shoe came off in the first 50 meters, and being the competitor he is, Braezden just kept plugging away, and ran a full three miles on one shoe. He fought through it, and  gave his best effort. And that shows what our kids are willing and capable of doing – taking an imperfect situation, and making the best out of it.”

Another senior who was expected to finish in the Top 10 was Derek Parks, who suffered an asthma attack during the race, eventually placing 61st.

“Derek did have another asthma attack, so that took him out of contention,” Conrad said. “But the last time that happened to him, the next week, he ended up running his fastest race ever. We’re planning on that type of rebound performance from him this weekend at state.”

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