It is often said with championship teams that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In no sport is that statement more true than it is in cross-country running, as evidenced by the way the Stansbury High boys team captured the Class 4A state championship Wednesday at Sugarhouse Park.
There wasn’t a true standout runner on the Stallions’ seven-man squad at the state meet. Their first finisher, Josh Oblad, was more than a minute off the state-championship pace set by Lehi’s Ryan Raff. In fact, Oblad hadn’t even been the top runner on his own team for most of the season. That honor belonged to Josh Wintch, who was the Stallions’ fifth-fastest on Wednesday.
But nobody tried to do too much. Nobody tried to be the hero. Instead, the Stallions were content to run in a tight pack, with their top five runners — Oblad, Dylan Bryant, Scott Ruebush, Richard Beazer and Wintch — crossing the finish line within 17.6 seconds of each other. Add No. 6 runner Blaise Miller and No. 7 runner Nathan Winters to the mix, and Stansbury had all of its runners finish within a 58.1-second span.
It was enough to give the Stallions their first team state championship in any boys sport. It was also enough to earn them the respect of their top competitors, as they posed for pictures with runner-up Pine View afterward. They were congratulated by the squad from Ogden that had beaten the Stallions the week by four points the week before for the Region 11 championship.
That’s the other unique thing about cross country — not only is there a strong sense of camaraderie between teammates, but it exists between competitors as well.
Perhaps more than in any other sport, cross-country runners are only as good as their competition. In a race full of slower runners, the top finisher isn’t going to have their most impressive time. If you fill the race with high-quality competitors, everybody’s time is going to be faster, merely because they’re being pushed so hard. It’s the rare sport where you actually want your competitors to do well, because they will force you to do better in order to beat them.
There’s no doubt that the Stallions had to have the race of their lives in order to win the state championship. There’s also no doubt that the boys from Pine View, Desert Hills, Ogden and Bonneville put forth maximum effort, as well. They didn’t make things easy for Stansbury, and all you can do when you give it your best and fall short is to tip your cap to the champions.
Those champions — or, at least their trophy and state championship banner — reside at the corner of Stallion Way and Bates Canyon Road this year.
Congratulations, Stallions. You definitely earned this one.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He was too scared to run cross country in high school after seeing members of his school’s team wearing shirts that read, “our sport is your sport’s punishment.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.