Prep cross-country: American Fork Utah's top national finish

Prep cross-country • American Fork has won four consecutive Class 5A state titles.
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When the rain is relentless — the steady downpour for nearly a week straight kind of relentless — the smart thing to do is head for higher ground.

The American Fork boys' cross-country team did just that earlier this month in Portland, Ore. The Cavemen trudged through the mud and slop of the 5-kilometer course and made their way to a nice dry location— the podium.

American Fork capped Utah's most successful cross-country season ever with a second-place finish at the Nike Cross Country Nationals on Dec. 1. And it did so on the muddiest, sloppiest track in the event's history.

"Wet and muddy might be an understatement," senior Brayden McLelland said. "It was really bad. Deep mud. It rained for a week leading up to the race, then for about three hours while us and the girls raced, it was bright, sunshiny. After that, it started raining again, so I guess we got lucky."

The Cavemen finished just 14 points behind champion Arcadia, from California, and improved upon last year's sixth-place showing.

The runner-up spot was just the second time a Utah team ever has made the podium. Davis High finished third last year. The only other teams to place in the top five were Mountain View's 2004 and 2005 squads.

Tyson Green, a senior, said the historical nature of the accomplishment is not lost on the runners, and he always will remember this talented group of runners.

"We worked so hard to be able to get to where we are," Green said. "The team is my family."

McLelland said the team's goal heading into the event was to be one of the three teams standing on the podium. The fact the Cavemen accomplished their goal outweighed the frustration of the narrow defeat.

"It's a bummer we didn't get first," McLelland said. "But the fact that we took second and got on the podium was awesome. It's something we haven't been able to do the past three years."

Top times were nearly two minutes slower than those of in 2011 on a dry course. McLelland earned second team All-American honors with his second-place finish overall among scoring runners (eighth overall). McMillan, a junior, was a third-team selection after placing eighth among scorers (19th overall).

Zac Jacklin finished 20th, Caleb Thompson was 44th and Green placed 48th to give the Cavemen 122 points. Green earned the "Anchor Award" as the fastest fifth scorer from any team.

With four consecutive Class 5A state championships and four consecutive Southwest US championship titles, American Fork has cemented its place as the state's elite boys' program.

And there appears to be little sign of letting up. Only two— McLelland and Green — of the top seven runners graduate in the spring, and the Cavemen hope the national finish will be a springboard to the sport's ultimate accomplishment.

"Now we know it's definitely a possibility to do well at nationals," McMillan said. "I think we're going to have a really good team next year, and we want to podium again. Maybe even win it." —

Tough mudders

American Fork's boys' cross country team places second at the Nike Cross Nationals earlier this month in Portland, Ore.

A weeklong rain storm turns the course into a sloppy, muddy mess and slows runners by almost two minutes.

Senior Brayden McLelland earns second team All-American with his second-place finish among scoring runners (eighth overall).