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The City Journals

Brighton Cross-Country Making Strides in Their 5A Region

Sep 29, 2016 12:27PM ● By Sarah Almond

Brighton’s cross-country girls charge as a group at the Spartan Invitational on Sept. 16. The girls team has grown significantly during the 2016 season. (Brighton High School cross-country)

By Sarah Almond | [email protected]

Cottonwood Heights, Utah - With just weeks left in the season, the Brighton High School cross-country team is continuing to put in the hard work and dedication they’ll need to compete at the state championship on Oct. 19. 

“The kids have been working really hard,” Head Coach Mike Zufelt said. “They’ve been running all summer and some are coming out and doing a couple practices a day and working hard at these practices.” 

Zufelt says that even though the teams don’t have any standout superstars this season, the group of 56 has a lot of depth that’s helped them find success in the first half of their season. 

“We are very strong as far as depth and have several runners who are running well, just not any superstars,” Zufelt said. 

With several kids who have placed in the top percentage at big invitational meets like the Utah County Invite, the Murray Invite and the Wasatch Rendezvous, the Bengals remain competitive in their 5A division. 

“Having the depth sometimes works better as a team than having just one or two standout athletes,” Zufelt said.  

The Bengals have a historically large group this season, with about 15 more runners on the roster than average. And as a surprise to Zufelt, most of the team’s new athletes are girls and more than half of the runners are new to the team this year. 

“I think that the kids are bringing their friends, which is a good thing,” Zufelt said. “It’s fun to see them enjoy being with each other and they like coming out. We’ve got a pretty consistent workout group, where in years past we would have a couple kids show up, and then miss a few days, and then come back. But this year it’s been very consistent and I think that will help us as the season progresses.” 

At the beginning of June, the large group started training for their season by running a couple dozen miles each week. Now, at the peak of their season, the Bengals are putting in more than 10 miles a day.  

“I would say our girls are running around 40 miles each week; our boys are more around 50,” Zufelt said. 

For the average person, the idea of running a dozen miles each day can be daunting. But Zufelt encourages anyone who is interested in running to attend practice.

“The only way a student would get cut from the cross-country team is by not coming out,” Zufelt said. “If they want to run, we teach them the lifelong skills of running. But if they only come out once a week or once every other week, it’s not going to work. A big part of cross-country is consistency.” 

Members of the Bengals cross-country team learn much more than just how to run for miles on end. Zufelt is adamant about teaching his runners the importance of good nutrition, proper running form, proper ways of training and progressing in miles, and even basic skills like balancing and exercises that help prevent injury. 

“The kids this year are really going the extra mile. It was their decision to have two-a-day practices and run a little extra so they can achieve that goal of making it to state,” Zufelt said. “I’m incredibly happy with the effort and the way the kids have worked together as a team.” 

Though Zufelt says the team must continue to improve on speed training, he has high hopes that this year’s dedicated group will find the success they need at the region championship to make it to the state meet. The region championship will be held on Oct. 10 at the Big Cottonwood Park at 2 p.m. In order to qualify for the state competition on Oct. 19, the Bengals must place in the top four at region.