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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest track team wins region title, athletes place in top 10 at state

Jun 18, 2018 03:58PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest senior Grace Cobabe easily takes the 100-meter hurdles at region, winning back-to-back region titles. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

For four years, Hillcrest High School long distance runner Justin Canals could be found hitting the pavement, getting miles in for his cross country and track seasons.

The former soccer player turned to running after a successful freshman cross country season and finished his senior season, running both the 1600 meters and his favorite race — the 3200 meters — to help lead the Hillcrest Huskies at the state championship at Brigham Young University. 

“I think that my greatest accomplishment this year was helping my team win the region title,” he said. “My best accomplishment from my four years was being on the varsity team and competing at the region meet every year.” 

That also included running the 4x400 relay, which Canals said, “I never thought I was going to be running the 4x400 meter relay as many times as I did, but in the end I was happy to contribute to the team any way that I could.” 

Hillcrest High’s track and field team won the boys’ and girls’ Region 2 titles despite moving from 4A to 6A. 

“Moving to 6A didn’t matter much,” head track coach Scott Stucki said. “We won almost every event.” 

They won enough events that the boys won Region 2 by 49 points, and the girls won by 86 points. Both teams qualified numerous athletes to compete at the state championship. Canals said state is his favorite meet. 

“It’s a honor to be able to compete with the best athletes in the state and to qualify to compete puts you in that category,” said Canals, who also has participated against top Western U.S. athletes at the Footlocker cross country meet in California and the Simplot Games track meet in Idaho. “I have learned to work hard and have dedication in order to get the results that I want. Having a good work ethic is definitely a strength that goes between each sport. If you don’t work hard then you’re not going to improve as much.” 

At state, Canals’ teammate, junior Zac Hastings, finished eighth in the 800 meters and ninth in the 1600 to help lead the boys’ team to an overall 16th place finish.

“Zac ran the best race ever, and it was unexpected that he placed so well, but overall, our boys did not have as much depth as we needed,” said Stucki, who also coaches the cross country teams in the fall. “Our distance team will be strong next year. I have a group of sophomores and a freshman, who as a team, with Zac, in cross country, should place in the top five at state.” 

Stucki also was impressed with Huskies’ junior James Reich and senior Keala Mahe, who placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in shot put. Mahe also placed 10th in discus. 

“Keala is a good leader who keeps others grounded,” Stucki said. “I’ll miss Alex (Cordova)’s speed (12th place, 100 meters) and Justin’s leadership. Justin has the ability to run an even pace and lead others with him.” 

Canals’ fellow seniors Madeline Martin and Grace Cobabe, took third and fifth, respectively, in the 100-meter hurdles, and Martin took fourth in the 300-meter hurdles to lead the girls’ team to an overall 11th-place finish, just one point out of the top 10. 

“State went almost as well as I expected,” Stucki said. “Our girls’ relays went better than I expected, and we had quite a few kids get their PRs (personal records).” 

The 4x100 girls’ relay of Martin, Cobabe, senior Olivia Finlayson and sophomore Morgan Miller placed seventh, as did the sprint medley team of Martin, Miller, senior Madison Hooper and junior Amelia Slama-Catron. The last four members also placed fifth in the 4x400 relay. 

Individually, Hooper placed ninth in the 400 meters. 

“Our 4x100 ran a faster time this year than last year, and our medley team ran the second-fastest time in school history, and the 4x400, the fifth-fastest time in our history,” Stucki said. “Olivia has been overlooked but is a solid 100 runner and a good pole vaulter. She is underrated, but she is a leader who is a hard worker and has improved her strength and speed.”

Finlayson placed 10th in pole vault while senior, and school record-holder Tara Sharp pole-vaulted 11 feet to place third at state. 

Senior Taylee Allen placed seventh in shot put and ninth in discuss, and senior Annabelle Jensen finished 10th in javelin. 

“We have a lot of seniors graduating, and I’m going to miss them, but we have a young team that shows some promise,” Stucki said about the girls team. “We also have several athletes sign with colleges — Hooper and Cobabe will be going to Westminster College; Sharp and Martin could sign as well.” 

Canals, who plans to run cross country and track at college, has appreciated Stucki and other coaches as well as his teammates. 

“I’m going to miss the relationship between the athletes,” he said. “Everyone cares about each other, and there’s support from each other that really makes the team feel like a family. What I’m going to miss from the coaches is that they work with every athlete, fast or slow. The coaches always have a winning mentality and want us to work hard, but they know that everyone needs the same help and deserve it no matter their talent level.”

Having a strong metal outlook is something that Cobabe has gained from track. 

“This year in track my greatest accomplishment has been getting over the mental block of thinking I am not good enough,” she said. “These last four years, I have been able to set personal goals for myself. Some of these goals I have set for myself include getting stronger so I wouldn’t get hurt, or perfecting my hurdle form so when I run my races I am running them more efficient.” 

Cobabe set a personal goal to be in the top 10 in state in events she regularly competes in, which she was able to do individually in both 100-meter hurdles and long jump. 

“One of my favorite events was the 100 (meter) hurdles,” she said. “I like this race because I could push myself to be better every race. I learned that it doesn’t matter what place (I) take, or who is running next to (me); all that matters is that I was able to get through my 10 hurdles as clean and as fast as I could. My other favorite event is the long jump. I like this event because it is fun to ‘legit’ — fly through the air. When you practice on perfecting your technique in the air or your extension before you hit the sand, it is so rewarding at a meet when you see all the practice come together and you are able to jump an insane distance.” 

Cobabe also tried the high jump, which she placed third at region, after winning the region title in the 100 hurdles, long jump and as part of the 4x100 relay.

“I am grateful for Coach A (Anthony Alford), who was always there for me and believed in me and helped me get to where I wanted to be,” she said about her sprint and jumping coach. 

After state, Cobabe participated in the USA track and field developmental meet, where she long jumped 18 feet, which would have placed her second at state. 

“What I have learned through high school track is that you don’t have to be the best as long as you are improving because that is what matters in the end,” she said. “I have learned how to never give up. When something gets hard, I push through it rather than giving up —because that is how you get stronger. It doesn’t matter if you took first place, but it does matter if you never stopped trying to be the best that you could be.” 

Canals said it has been an honor to represent Hillcrest track and cross country for four years. 

“I have loved having the opportunity to lead my teammates to reach their full potential,” he said. “I have helped them to get over one bad result so it doesn’t affect the next race. I have been able to give advice about injuries and make sure that my teammates are in the best shape for them to compete. It’s definitely been a big part of my life that I’ll never forget.”