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The City Journals

Junior High Patriots Top Competition

Dec 07, 2015 11:39AM ● By Greg James

By Greg James

South Valley - The Providence Hall Junior High School cross country teams ran to the top of the Utah Charter and Small School Athletic League; try saying that 20 times fast.

Fast is what the junior Patriots were. Ali Jones paced the girls field winning the individual state championship by eight seconds.  Eliza Howe placed eighth overall, and the girls brought home the team state championship.

“This season was so amazing. I thought that most of our runners had moved up, so I was a little worried about it, but the season just blew me away. Throughout the season, I was so impressed by how hard these kids would work. We were running four days a week doing hills, sprints and distance. They were so dedicated,” head cross country coach Jessie Ballard said.

The boys team was not far behind its girls counterpart. They finished third overall. Jonathan Ruiz placed 11th individually and T.J. Warnick 12th.

“Ali (Jones) took first in every meet all season long. It was fun to watch her. She has been on the team since sixth grade. She works so hard every practice and really wanted to take state this year. Jonathan (Ruiz) is in eighth grade and it was his first year to run cross country. He took second at regionals,” Ballard said.

Cross country running is a sport in which teams and individuals run a race over natural terrain. Typically, the course is 2-3 miles long and can include hills, dirt roads and grass. Teams are awarded points by where each of their runners finish.

“When the school opened five years ago, we had 15 kids on the team. Each year, the team gets bigger and bigger. This season we had 65 runners. A lot of these kids could not run a mile when we started. By the end of the season, every kid was running the full two miles and many of them improved their times by four or five minutes,” Ballard said.

The Patriots that qualified for the state meet were: Ali Jones, Abby Finlayson, Eliza Howe, Audrey Robertson, Grace Drury, Teigyn Holt, Natalie Finlayson, Jonathan Ruiz, T.J. Warnick, Brock Lindsey, McKay Loftus, Taeson Holt, Chase Francis and Sam Beck.

The UCSSAL is designed to administer and supervise interscholastic athletics among its member schools. Providence Hall is included in the central division with Channing Hall, North Star, APA-Draper and Summit Academy.