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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Bengal’s Run for State

Oct 07, 2015 02:27PM ● By Bryan Scott

The 2015 Brighton High School Cross Country team

By Sarah Almond

With just weeks left in their season, Brighton High School’s cross country team has their eyes set on state championships. The co-ed group of 47 runners has been practicing nearly every day since June 6, running up to 70 miles per week. 

“We’re hoping our whole team will be going to State,” Head Coach Mike Zufelt said. 

Zufelt, who grew up in Bountiful, has been running cross country for most of his life. He began working with the Bengals cross country team over a decade ago, when his daughter was a runner on the team. 

 “In the 10 years that I’ve been head coach, this is the strongest team,” Zufelt said, “We’ve got a great group of runners this year.” 

Though the team is almost evenly split with 23 girls and 24 boys, the group is driven largely by underclassmen. With only four seniors leading the team, the Bengal’s varsity group is mainly comprised of juniors.

“Having a young team has been really fun,” senior girls’ captain Natalie Pellman said. “They are new to running and it’s really fun to like, help them learn the sport and push themselves. They don’t know what to do a lot of the time, so it’s fun to help.” 

Natalie, who’s the only senior on the girls’ team, believes that this is one of the best years yet. With the even spread of boys and girls, she feels like they are a very solid team. 

“We are really good friends all around and we’re pretty close,” Pellman said. “Generally speaking, I feel like cross country kids are pretty cool. We’re always friendly and saying ‘Hi’ in the halls.” 

Aside from being a close-knit team in the halls and classrooms, both Zufelt and the upperclassmen runners think the team is looking promisingly strong on the trail this year.

“For the first time in a while we’re actually average,” senior boys’ captain Sam Staton said.  And co-captain Isaac Robinson agrees. 

“Normally we have outliers like really fast guys, moderate guys and slower guys,” Robinson said. “But this year its more we’re all like, pretty 17s and 18s [minutes].”

Though the team trains daily with 5- to 10-mile runs, at cross country meets the runners compete in quick 3-mile sprints. Having several runners of the same speed has encouraged runners to push each other harder and has also increased the team’s internal competition. 

“It’s so hard,” said Robinson. “All you think about is ‘OK, I’ve gotta keep my spot, so you’re like trying to keep you place at least.’”

This competitive camaraderie seems to be benefitting the team. Sept. 5 was a big day of racing for the Bengals as the group attended the annual BYU Invitational. 

“This last race was a big highlight for our season,” Robinson said. “Most people got a personal record there – most of us.” 

And though the Bengals boys’ team is comfortably seeded in a position to race in the state championships, this will be the first time since 1983 that the girls’ team has a decent shot at becoming state champions. 

“The whole girls’ team hasn’t made it [to State] in quite a while, so it’s going to be really fun,” Pellman said. “It’s a big deal.” 

The Bengals will compete in the Region Championships on Oct. 13 at Big Cottonwood Park 4400 South 1300 East. The top 10 athletes qualify individually and the top four teams will qualify as a group for state championships, held at Sugar House Park on Oct. 21.