In theory, I’m supposed to remain neutral when I’m out covering a sporting event.
I don’t root for one team over another, no matter who’s playing. I’m just there to report what happens, good or bad, win or lose.
However, it was hard for me not to be thrilled with what I saw at last week’s state cross-country championship meet at Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City, when Stansbury’s Carson Belnap led the Stallions to the Class 4A boys team championship and Grantsville’s Porter Whitworth finished first in the Class 3A boys race for the second year in a row. Part of that was selfish — after all, there are few things more fun than writing about a state championship, and I’ve gotten to write about plenty of them over the past five years — but most of it was genuine happiness for everyone involved.
Whitworth just exudes confidence. It’s not necessarily in a cocky way, either. It’s just that he’s very, very good at what he does, and he is keenly aware of how good he is. And that’s exactly what it takes to pull off the victory he did on Wednesday. Grand’s Evan Ellison reeled him in near the finish, and even pulled in front of him. But it was Whitworth’s day. He’d come too far to let it slip away now. Only an elite athlete can reach deep down the way Whitworth did and find that extra gear when they need it most. And he’s shown it, time and time again.
Belnap has a slightly different approach, but one that works just as well. You can tell he’s confident — what top-level athlete isn’t — but he won’t say much about it afterward. His winning effort did all the talking for him, though. Nobody was even close after he took off in the final mile. The moment that race hit Mile 2, everyone else was battling for second place. While Whitworth’s race had the heart-stopping finish, Belnap’s was a show of pure dominance. His winning time was the fourth-fastest of the day by anyone, Class 1A through 6A — and it would have been interesting to see him in the 5A or 6A races against deeper fields.
And to see Stansbury win another team title? That was the cherry on the sundae. That’s a program that is run the right way, and isn’t just focused on its own success, but making everyone around it better. The Stallions’ success, and their willingness to work with the other teams in the county, just makes Tooele and Grantsville even better — which, in turn, lifts Stansbury up as well.
Good things happen to good people. In the case of Whitworth, Belnap and the entire Stansbury boys cross country team, these good people couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
Thanks again, boys, for another exciting season. Athletes in other sports may consider cross-country running to be pure punishment, but it sure has brought a lot of joy to this side of the Oquirrhs lately.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He felt slightly guilty that the only exercise he got during the state cross-country meet came when he went across the street to get some coffee and then walked back. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.