Amid stiff competition, Riverton cross country aiming highOct 12, 2023 01:31PM ● By Josh McFadden
The Riverton cross country team fields one of the best squads in the state on both the boys’ and girls’ side. (Photo courtesy of Chase Englestead.)
Cross country in Utah is filled with deep, talented teams, with some schools even making noise on a national level. Count Riverton with those top teams.
The Silverwolves are fielding one of their best squads ever, on both the boys’ and girls’ side. Both teams figure to be a factor at the state meet, which takes place Oct. 24. The boys have had a few small setbacks but are still performing at a high level.
“It’s been a fantastic season so far,” head coach Chase Englestead said. “The boys team is aspiring to be one of the best teams nationwide this season. We’re fortunate to have such formidable competition in Utah and our region, pushing us to exceed our limits and avoid complacency. The boys have felt let down by a few of their race performances, but they’ve shown resilience in getting back on track and bouncing back. At present, the boys team is shaping up to be one of the best we’ve ever had, and they’re confident they can compete as one of the top teams in the country.”
The girls team has also reached great heights. Englestead is pleased with the girls’ hard work and determination. Some excellent teams on the girls’ side await the Silverwolves at state and other meets, but the runners are up to the challenge.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our girls team this year,” he said. “They’ve surpassed all our expectations for this season, and we’re eager to see how they’ll fare at state. Currently, it seems that the top two girls teams, Lone Peak and American Fork, are unmatched by any other 6A teams. However, our girls believe they are among five teams that could compete for that third spot at state, with Westlake likely being the team to beat.”
Englestead pointed out the progress and performance of Tyson Gubler, Christian Ruf and Erik Sharp on the boys team. He also lauded Melanie Anderson and Grace Swensen on the girls’ side. Freshmen Isaac Sharp and Isabel Preston have been welcome additions to the team and should be fixtures for the next three years.
Another standout has been Sam Ghiz, who placed third overall at the Border Wars at Sugar House Park. Also, both the girls and boys teams broke the school record at the Park City Invite.
“Remarkably, our boys team swept the first through fifth places, achieving a perfect score in cross country against 20 other teams at the Park City Invite,” Englestead said.
Outside of competition, the Silverwolves get along well and have a strong team bond. Englestead is impressed with how the athletes conduct themselves on and off the course.
“Our team’s strength lies in the relationships they share with each other,” he said. “They’re incredibly inclusive, kind and caring. These wonderful young men and women, I believe, are the pillars of our school and community. They excel in every aspect of their lives, from academics to cross country. They’re a delightful group to coach.”
Cross country is a demanding sport. Like other sports, it requires hard work and dedication to succeed. As athletes set goals, they don’t always achieve them. The Riverton runners are great at bouncing back and keeping things in perspective, Englestead said.
“We set high expectations for ourselves in terms of competition, work ethic and personal drive,” he said. “This naturally leads to situations where things don’t always go as planned or we might feel disappointed in our race performances. However, these students have done an outstanding job focusing on what they can control and maintaining a productive, positive mindset. I believe this has allowed our team to keep pushing, even when everything doesn’t go according to plan.”
Englestead loves coaching this group and is excited to see how the runners fare the rest of the season and beyond. He is grateful for the chance to work with such outstanding young people.
“Every season, the thing I’m most proud of is my athletes’ relentless pursuit of improvement,” he said. “I often find myself in awe of their incredible spirit, wishing I had embodied these qualities at their age. Their passion, their resilience, their drive—these are the qualities that resonate with me year after year. This is exactly what makes coaching such a rewarding experience for me. If you ever have the chance to see them running at 5:45 a.m., braving the snow or enduring 20-degree temperatures, consider yourself lucky. You’re witnessing a rare level of grit.” λ