Riverton’s ‘national caliber’ cross country team finishes third at stateDec 02, 2022 03:15PM ● By Travis Barton
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
Not a bad year for Riverton runners.
Both Riverton High’s cross-country teams finished in the top six at the state meet, which took place at the Regional Athletic Complex in Salt Lake City, with the girls coming in at sixth and the boys repeating their 2021 finish taking third.
The boys average time was under 16 minutes at state with the top five runners ranging from 15:32 to 15:58.
“Usually you’re a national caliber team if you can average a sub 16,” said Chase Englestead, Riverton’s head cross country coach. “There’s not been many teams in Utah that have done it.”
The third-place finish saw them land just two points behind second-placed Lone Peak and 25 points ahead of region rival Herriman.
“We returned an extremely good boys team,” Englestead said of the crew that reached the same place last year with the bronze medal.
“We’re stoked with it overall, I think a few of the boys have high expectations and because of those, it has taken a little bit of the joy out of it,” he said. “Sometimes that happens where you expect to be at a certain place and then you don’t get it even though you did something really cool and really good.”
Since 2017, when the 6A classification was formed, the boys have finished third now four times, with a fifth and seventh place filling out the other two years. In a state with multiple national contenders, it’s an impressive run for Englestead, now in his 11th year coaching at Riverton.
“We’re always in contention on the boys side, and always one of the better teams in the country,” he said.
This year’s iteration featured two of the state’s top runners in Tyler McDougal and Jake Seegmiller. McDougal finished this year’s race, in drizzling and cold conditions, with a time of 15:32.6 for 10th place while Seegmiller ended at 15:42 in 17th.
Englestead said while they didn’t finish as high as they would’ve liked, McDougal was only four seconds out of fifth place. Seegmiller, he added, has the two fastest times in the school’s time trial course.
“He’s shown that he’s faster than any kid that’s ever been in our school,” he said of Seegmiller. “And faster than some boys that have qualified for nationals in the past.”
Both will run in college, Englestead said, and both have high GPAs and ACT scores, putting a lot of time into academics as well.
“I’m blown away at their dedication,” he said, adding they’ll even cut short social events at 9 p.m. if they have an early morning run.
“I just don’t know very many people that are as disciplined as they are in everything in their lives,” he said. “They're incredible kids.”
Both run track as well, so their high school careers aren’t over quite yet.
On the girls side, Englestead expected more of a rebuilding year after losing 12 of their top 15 girls from last year. Four of which signed to run at SLCC and another signed for Utah State.
“We were stoked on the girl’s side for the sixth-place finish,” he said. “We were really, really happy they finished as high as they did just because it was unexpected.”
At the beginning of the season, Englestead felt finishing in the eight to 12 range was a reasonable goal, especially with a group of girls that had never run varsity before. But with each passing week, their progress starting feeling like a five to seventh place finish was possible.
“Our girls were consistent, worked really hard and raced an amazing race at state. That was really fun for them,” he said. “Almost every girl set a personal best at state, even on a cold, rainy day.”
One of those girls who encapsulated that progress was Mya Oyler. After a 58th place finish and 19:42 time as a freshman last year, Oyler improved by almost 40 seconds this year to take 19th with a time of 19:04.
Senior Ryann Jones was another to improve her time, going eight seconds faster this year to finish 26th versus 48th a year ago.
Englestead said the team’s improvement came down to its efforts at consistency.
“We don’t have to hit home runs every single workout, we want to hit a lot of singles in our workouts,” he said. “If we're consistently getting good workouts week after week after week, we'll consistently improve. But when we swing for the fence for our workouts, there's a lot of times we strike out and then we have this up and down in emotions.”
Up next for the runners was the Nike Cross Southwest Regionals in Arizona Nov. 19 (after press deadline), with the possibility of qualifying for nationals in Oregon two weeks after that.
Regardless of how the Silverwolves perform there, Englestead is confident in the program and its direction.
Both teams will return most of their top 15 runners. The girls lose one while the boys lose four to graduation. But the junior and sophomore classes have him feeling good.
“I think we’re one of the best (programs) in the state, no doubt,” he said.