Desert Hills’ Joshua Thatcher collapsed onto the ground and gasped for air. Adrenaline wasn’t enough to allow him to celebrate properly — at least not yet.
“It’s my senior year so I just wanted to give it my all,” Thatcher said.
He did, pulling away from the rest of the pack a mile and a half into the race and holding on until the finish line to claim the Region 9 Cross Country championship with a time of 15:50.92. His victory helped pace the Thunder to the team title, too.
“This is kind of what we expected,” Desert Hills coach Logan Fielding said. “They ran well, and we are excited going into state, next week.”
It was the fourth straight region championship for Desert Hills, who placed six runners in the top 10. Pine View, Cedar and Hurricane followed to earn a spot at the state meet.
But even if winning the meet has become a regular occurrence for the Thunder, Thatcher didn’t think he would be the young man that would be leading the pack.
“One thing about our region is we are super tight, and any given race anyone can step up and have an amazing race,” Thatcher said. ”I spent a mile and half in the front and just kept expecting people to catch me.”
But no one did, something Pine View’s Meskerem Stucki could relate to.
Stucki won the girl’s race with a time of 18:52.6, but she was more concerned about celebrating her team’s title.
“I like to work with my team. If I don’t run with them I wouldn’t be able to get first place,” she said.
And if she didn’t, then another Panther probably would have. Pine View had three of the top four finishers, with Rylee Holt finishing second and Caroline Clements taking fourth.
“I was really pleased with our youngest runners, our sophomores and freshmen,” Pine View coach Dave Holt said. “And the leadership from Meskerem. she’s the only senior on the team so it was great to see her get the region title.”
Desert Hills came in second, followed by Cedar and Snow Canyon.
But even as Desert Hills and Pine View celebrated with their new hardware, they have bigger goals ahead. Both are hoping to claim state titles, next weekend.
“Expectations are to win it again, that would be three in a row, which would be a huge accomplishment,” Fielding said. “The guys are really locked in, in good spirits and focused. This is kind of the first step to work towards that.”
After a seven point loss to Park City at last year’s state meet, the Pine View girls are hoping to erase that heartbreak by winning the title this season.
“Our No. 1 goal for the year is winning the state title, and we knew from the beginning that we could achieve that,” Holt said.
Boy’s top 10 finishers
1. Joshua Thatcher, Desert Hills,15:50.2, 2. Jaden Melendrez, Desert Hills, 15:58.7, 3. Nick Hill, Pine View, 15:59.6, 4. Dalen Gillespie, Pine View, 16:05.0, 5. Spencer Ford, Desert Hills, 16:06.01, 6. Sage Ducote, Desert Hills, 16:12.4, 7. Mitchell Price, Pine View, 16:19.6, 8. Bryson King, Desert Hills, 16:26.9, 9. Tanner Sharp, Desert Hills, 16:34.1, 10. Carson Horspool, Pine View, 16:35.1
Boy’s team scores
1. Desert Hills 22, 2. Pine View 38, 3. Cedar 82, 4. Hurricane 125, 5. Dixie 129, 6. Snow Canyon 157
Girl’s top 10 finishers
1. Meskerem Stucki, Pine View, 18:52.6, 2. Rylee Holt, Pine View, 18:58.7, 3. Lily Poulton, Desert Hills, 19:03.2, 4. Caroline Clements, Pine View, 19:16.8, 5. Laynee Wells, Desert Hills, 19:21.4, 6. Mic Webster, Cedar, 19:24.4, 7. Bailey Brinkerhoff, Desert Hills, 19:42.9, 8. Josie Bushar, Pine View, 19:43.0, 9. Halsey Curry, Cedar, 19:47.5, 10. Ellie Bushar, Pine View, 10:10.4
Girl’s team scores
1. Pine View 25, 2. Desert Hills 53, 3. Cedar 57, 4. Snow Canyon 101
Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter, @millerjryan.