* American Fork junior Nate Jaster was third overall at the RunningLane XC National Championships on Saturday at John Hunt Park
Photo Credit: Chris Wells/Alabama Runners
- - -
HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA -- Think about last season for a second.
American Fork's boys have.
Consider that the Cavemen, traditionally one of the nation's best boys distance programs under Timo Mostert, weren't even the top team in the state of Utah to end 2019.
Between injuries, fatigue and those ever-jarring late-season plateaus, American Fork finished last year second at its region meet, was fourth at state in Class 6A and 10th at its Team Southwest Regional.
For good reason, the Cavemen were on a mission this year, racking up five straight wins over teams considered the best in Utah and the country.
Then, American Fork lost to Skyridge at state.
"We needed to prove ourselves again," junior Nate Jaster said.
What have the Cavemen done since then?
In the team's two ensuing meets since that loss, including Saturday's resounding team championship at the RunningLane XC National Championships at John Hunt Park, American Fork has entered the conversation as not only the best team in Utah and one of the top teams in the nation ... but the squad has a legitimate argument that it could compete for a national team championship in 2020.
Of course, those national championship races don't exist this fall.
* Note: Our interview with American unfortunately cut out 60 seconds into the process
- - -
But in winning the national-caliber race on Saturday, American Fork did something no other team in history has done.
The Cavemen averaged 15:00.99 for 5K, which reportedly is the fastest team average in high school history, behind the 1978 Class AAA state championhip effort of South Eugene in 15:01.02, and this year's Desert Twilight peformance from Newbury Park in 15:05.02.
After Saturday, American Fork, Niwot and Skyridge are now among the top 5 teams on the all-time top average list.
American Fork's combined speed rating average was 183.6 -- second only behind Newbury Park's 187.4 from the XC Town USA Meet of Champions last week and the Panther's 184.4 from Desert Twilight Invitational in October.
The only way to really determine a winner, as obvious as this sounds, is to race.
"It's awesome," junior Brayden Packard said. "We've been looking foward to NXN during the summer. And when that got canceled, that was really a letdown because this is the fastest team we've had in a long time. To have this meet is really awesome."
The Cavemen had all five of its scorers inside the top 64 -- important note: the top 69 performances were all under 15:20 -- and both Packard and junior Nate Jaster were inside the top 20. Jaster, in particular, had an incredible second half, reportedly passing nearly 70 athletes in the final miles to finish third overall.
The whole reason American Fork was even at this meet was because Border Wars -- a competition pitting Colorado teams against Utah squads -- was canceled due to an uptick in COVID-19 concerns in those states.
It's hard to know exactly how good this team is without having faced Newbury Park, or without a true national team championship, but there's no doubt this American Fork team could compete with the 2016 version, the one that finished second at Team Nationals behind two-time AF winner Casey Clinger.
Here's another interesting anecdote.
As I was walking through my hotel lobby on Saturday post-race, I spotted the Satellite (FL) High School boys. The Florida, which was coming off its FHSAA Class 2A title last weekend, finished fifth overall with an average of 15:18.35.
The Scorpion's coach made an off-handed comment to me as we walked to the elevators.
"You think a 15:18 averge would have at least gotten us inside the top 3," he said.
He's not wrong.
A total of 11 teams averaged under 16 minutes on the day. The top four were all under 15:05. Niwot was second overall with a 15:03.41 average, which is now third all-time, while Mountain Vista was third with a 15:07.
Interestingly enough, Skyridge put down the fouth-best average all-time in 15:03.79, but the squad finished fourth overall at this meet -- largely due to the fact that both Creed and Davin Thompson broke 15 minutes, finishing second and 10th, respectively, in 14:34.38 and 14:41.68.
Team Scores ================================================================================= Rank Team Total 1 2 3 4 5 *6 *7 *8 *9 ================================================================================= Results - Men 1 American Fork 75 2 7 20 21 25 41 50 Total Time: 1:15:04.95 Average: 15:00.99 2 Real Training (Niwot) 88 5 12 18 23 30 71 82 Total Time: 1:15:17.01 Average: 15:03.41 3 Vista Nation XC 104 4 14 15 26 45 62 97 Total Time: 1:15:37.77 Average: 15:07.56 4 Skyridge 105 1 6 11 31 56 Total Time: 1:15:18.94 Average: 15:03.79 5 Wickham Distance Project 150 8 13 16 44 69 72 85 Total Time: 1:16:31.73 Average: 15:18.35 6 Farmington XC 168 19 28 29 37 55 60 81 Total Time: 1:17:04.49 Average: 15:24.90 7 Scotties 231 22 35 39 51 84 126 Total Time: 1:18:23.58 Average: 15:40.72 8 Shockville 231 38 42 46 48 57 73 86 Total Time: 1:18:13.01 Average: 15:38.61 9 Blue Devils XC (Marietta) 249 3 40 49 68 89 91 92 Total Time: 1:18:26.21 Average: 15:41.25 10 House TC 284 17 43 63 66 95 118 Total Time: 1:19:15.17 Average: 15:51.04