Grand junior Ali Hirt runs ahead of teammates junior Jessie Anderson and sophomore Anika Scherer during the Region 15 Championship race on Tuesday, Oct. 10, in Moab. GCHS sophomore Kylah Ricks (not pictured) won the race with a course-record and personal best time of 18:41.6. Anderson (fifth), Hirt (sixth) and Scherer (ninth) also cracked the top 10, helping the girls win the team title. [Photo by Murice D. Miller  / Moab Sun News]

The Grand County High School girls cross country (GCHS) team won the Region 15 Championship at the Moab Golf Club on Tuesday, Oct. 9, placing four runners in the top 10, including individual champ sophomore Kylah Ricks, who broke her own course record, running at 18:41.6.

Ricks time tied her personal best, which she hopes to break at the state championship meet, which takes on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 10 a.m., at Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City, where she said her toughest competition for the top spot will come from Morgan freshman Sophie Earley. After a second-place finish at state in 2017, Ricks said her goal this year is to win the state title.

Ricks was followed by a pair of junior teammates in the top 10: Jessie Anderson in fifth and Ali Hirt in sixth with identical 20:39.4 finish times; and sophomore Anika Scherer in ninth at 20:49.4. Freshman Bella Welch took 17th at 22:17.0.

GCHS cross country coach Randy Martin said that the Lady Red Devils haven’t yet reached their ceiling, and he hopes for them to improve on their historic victory when they compete at state.

“I’m super excited we won a region title in girls cross country for the first time in school history,” he said. “But we can run better, and we will run better at state.”

Martin said he was especially impressed with the race from Anderson, who he said sent him a text message on the first day of summer practice and asked what she needed to do to finish in the top 10 at the state meet this season, after finishing 38th as a sophomore in 2017.

“I said, ‘if you’re serious, we’ll put you on a plan that will have you in the top 10,’ and to her credit, she’s stuck to the plan,” he said. “She’s been running five days a week. She was out there by herself training all summer long.”

Thanks to their work ethic, the girls cross country team has seen steady improvement all season, which puts them in contention for a state title.

“To see all the improvement, especially with our fourth and fifth runners, is really exciting,” Ricks said.

Seniors Sadie Farnsworth and Mercedes Zunich both earned Academic All-Region honors, which were presented following the meet. In the race, Farnsworth finished 24th at 22:53.8, and Zunich finished 29th at 23:29.9. Rachel Thompson (50th, 26:25.9), Lorena Johnson (52nd, 26:49.2), and Hannah Owen (61st, 28:14.6) also ran for GCHS.

In the boys race, juniors Evan Ellison and Malachi Ricks finished third and fourth behind Richfield junior Hayden Harward and Emery sophomore Bryar Meccariello. Ellison ran at 16:27.2, and Ricks was right behind him at 16:29.3.

“(Harward and Meccariello) are amazingly talented runners, so we weren’t surprised by the finish,” Martin said. “Evan and Malachi had an outstanding race, and they both had their best times of the season.”

Malachi Ricks said it gave him a lot of excitement to run sub-16:30, and he enjoys running neck-and-neck with Ellison.

“It gives me a good gauge of how I’m doing,” he said. “Evan’s a talented runner so if I’m right there with him, I know I’m running well.”

Freshman Arthur Hawks was the next Red Devil across the finish line in eighth place at 17:01.4, followed by junior Jameson Hawks in 28th at 18:44.8, and junior Soren Indergard in 31st at 18:58.4, giving the Red Devils a state-qualifying fourth-place team finish. Emery took first, followed by North Sanpete in second and Richfield in third.

Jonathan Martineau (46th, 19:40.2), Stan Johnson (60th, 20:19.2), Daniel Thayer (87th, 22:32.8) and Sam Kesavadhana (88th, 22:53.1) also ran for the Red Devils.

Kylah Ricks takes first place, breaks own course record