The Grand County High School cross country team begins its 2019 season this week, where it will look to build on its 2018 campaign, which was the most successful in the program’s history.

In 2018, the GCHS girls placed second, while the boys tied for fourth at the 3A state championship meet. This season, the program returns its top five runners on both sides, and coach Randy Martin says the runners are even better than they were last year at this time.

“We had time trials last Friday, where I timed the runners going three miles on the track,” he said. “And they all were significantly faster than they were last year.”

The girls team will be led by defending state 3A individual champion junior Kylah Ricks, with seniors Ali Hirt and Jessie Anderson and junior Anika Scherer jockeying for the next three positions.

“Anika, Ali and Jessie are all great runners,” Martin said. “Jessie put in a lot of work over the summer and was more than two minutes faster than her time trial last year.”

With the defending state champion and three more runners capable of top-10 finishes at state, Martin said he fully expects the girls team to compete for the state championship this season.

The boys will also be right in the championship mix, led by seniors Evan Ellison and Malachi Ricks, both of whom finished in the top seven at state last year, and both of whom improved on their time trials.

“There’s lots of competition at the top in the boys division,” Martin said. “In our own region, Emery is a great team, so is Richfield, and we also have Morgan who won the title last year. Both Evan and Malachi should be in the top five at state, so we’ve got a chance in the boys division, too.”

Along with Ellison and Ricks, the boys also return their other three state scorers from last year in seniors Jameson Hawks and Soren Indergard, and sophomore Arthur Hawks. The team also got a welcome additon in senior Owen Linares, son of Moab City Manager Joel Linares, Martin said.

The season’s first meet will be the Highland Invitational at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, Aug. 14. Martin said the course has one or two minor differences, but is essentially the same as the state course. Martin said that he tries every year to schedule a meet prior to state at the state course. The Red Devils have only one home meet this season, which is on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

“Everyone on the team knows the program, everyone knows the routine,” Martin said. “It’s really fun as a coach to have a veteran team like the one we have this year.”