By: Shawn O’Brate

ETHETE – This past Saturday the high school cross country season officially came to a close as the best-of-the-best traveled to Wyoming Indian High School to compete on the beautiful course out behind the football stadium. Runners from all across the Cowboy state took their places alongside each other, looking to not only break their personal bests but also to try and break some other records as well. 

For instance, the 4A boys’ winner – Star Valley’s Habtamu Wetzel – broke the course record when he crossed the finish line at 15:48.04, beating the record by over 20 seconds. Wetzel, a sophomore, broke the Star Valley sophomore record on his way to the win as well when he beat two Natrona County seniors, Tristan Enders (16:09.40) and Jackson Dutcher (16:16.68). 

Wetzel’s win, as well as his teammates’ top-ll performances, helped Star Valley win the overall team score as well when they finished with 50 points, far ahead of Cheyenne Central’s 79 and Laramie High School’s 86. 

The top 10 3A girls stood atop the podium Saturday in Ethete. Lander’s Ameya Eddie (far left) took first place and Blue Blackburn (third from right) took eighth. (p/c Carl Cote)

The 4A girls ran first at the beginning of the day when the crisp, windy air was still swirling around in Ethete. In that race it was Sydney Morrell, a senior at Cheyenne Central High School, coming in first with a time of 18:29.79. Second place belonged to Jackson Hole’s sophomore runner, Madison Antonino, with a time of 18:40.13 and Laramie’s Addison Forry (19:24.44) finished in third. 

Cheyenne Central finished with four of the top-10 runners in that race, leading to a team win at state with a total of 40 points whereas Natrona County’s runners, who finished with three in the top-seven, finished in second with 46. 

The big race for those around Fremont County was the 3A girls’ and boys’ races, starting with the girls who ran the second race of the day as the sun started to peek out of the clouds. It was in that race that Lander Valley’s Ameye Eddy, who came into the State Championship with four top-place finishes in her past five races, crossed the finish line first with a time of 19:29.21. 

Eddy’s top-place finish is the best for a Lander Valley runner since Sam Kistemann’s second-place finish back in 2020 and is the best for a Lander Valley girl (outside of Eddy’s fourth-place finish last year) since 2007 when Larkin Guenther finished fourth.

One of the favorites to win the 3A girls’ race, Rawlins’ Ryann Smith, finished in first earlier this season during the Chief Nation Invitational back in early September but came up 10 seconds behind Eddy for second place, eight seconds ahead of Cody’s senior runner Taylen Stinson. It would be Stinson’s team that finished with the best team score (58), ahead of Evanston (71) and Powell (109). Lander Valley would finish in fourth in team points (118) while Riverton would finish in 13th with 337 points.

After the race, Eddy spoke to WyoToday’s Cody Beers about the race and what was going through her mind.

Adriano Brown grinned atop jis horse as the 3A boys racers readied at the startling line Saturday in Ethete. (p/c Carl Cote)

“For a little bit I thought I was out of it, I think both of them [Smith and Stinson] had really strong second miles and third miles but when I got to that 4000m I just decided this is when I have to go and leave it all out there, so I decided to go,” Eddy said.

When Eddy was done with the race and the interviews her coach, Kevin Green, talked about his star sophomore. “She’s a sophomore and she started really coming on in spring track as a freshman,” Coach Green said. “She had some knee problems this summer so we really took it slow getting her into the season. She’s a very strong second-half runner of the race and she stayed close enough today to use her tools to win.”

As for the 3A boys, filled with heavy hitters from both Lander Valley and Riverton High School, the race took place later in the afternoon with the Tigers’ Diego Lobatos and the Wolverines’ Kaden Chatfield projected to finish near the top.

In the end, they would both fall short of Mountain View’s Owen Burnett who not only won the Chief Nation Invitational in Ethete earlier this year but who also won the State Championship in 3A last season as well. 

Burnett (16:04.37) set a new personal record on Saturday to close out his high school cross country career. He finished ahead of Green River’s Nathan Stevenson (16:37.31) and Cody’s Charlie Hulbert (16:49.14). Riverton’s Chatfield finished in ninth with a time of 17:11.64 while Lander’s Lobatos finished 11th with 17:22.54. 

Riverton’s Kaden Chatfield trailed closely behind Owen Burnett Saturday in the 3A boys race in Ethete. Chatfield turned in a time of 17:11 in the championship race earning him ninth place. (p/c Carl Cote)

Mountain View would come out on top of the team total with 71 while Evanston finished in second with 89. Riverton would finish in sixth with 156 right ahead of Lander’s seventh-place finish with 173. 

The 2A girls were led by Moorcroft’s Mallory Jones (21:20.50), followed closely by Marilee Williams from Saratoga (21:42.90) and Thermopolis senior Ruth Johnson (21:57.50). Saratoga would end up taking the top-spot in the team points total with a dominating 17, 40 points better than Tongue River’s 57, which garnered a second-place finish.

One of the biggest headlines of the weekend, outside of Fremont County, was in the 2A boys’ race which finished the day. In that race Saratoga’s Grant Bartlett finished in first place (17:24.58) for the fourth straight year, completing the sweep of 2A’s biggest race in spectacular fashion. 

Bartlett’s brother, Grady, finished right behind him with 17:32.07 on the clock when he crossed the finish line. Rocky Mountain and Burlingtons’s runners would end up getting them the top spot in the point total (28) when it was all said and done, beating Saratoga (29) by just one point.

Many of these distance runners will take a small break during the winter and return for the spring track and field season, so stay on the lookout for more information on the runners throughout the offseason and upcoming preseason.

For more photos from the race be sure to pick up an edition of