HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

Woods Cross’ Sam Hansen Places Third At National Cross Country Championships

Dec 12, 2022, 9:33 AM | Updated: 9:36 am
Sam-Hansen-Woods-Cross-Wildcats-Cross-Country...
Mountain View’s Liam Heninger, left, watches as Woods Cross’ Sam Hansen collapses while crossing the finish line in the 5A boys cross-country state championships at the Regional Athletic Complex in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. Hansen finished in third place and Heninger finished fourth. (Courtesy of Deseret News)
(Courtesy of Deseret News)

SAN DIEGO – For much of the cross country season, Sam Hansen couldn’t do the one – run.

The Woods Cross senior was hobbled by an injured Achilles for much of the 2022 cross country season, and in the weeks leading up to the Utah State meet, he spent most of his time on a stair climber, running in a pool, or on a bike.

“It kept me in shape,” said Hansen, who had the race of his prep career at the 43rd Champs Sports Cross Country Championships National Finals Saturday in San Diego. “I’d been running about four days…so it didn’t go very well.”

He finished 12th in the state meet, but he qualified for this weekend’s longest-running national cross country championship with a stellar race in the regional event last weekend.

“I won the west regionals – that was unexpected,” he said.

And Saturday he surprised himself again with a third-place finish. Hansen, who started running cross country because his mother was the coach, felt good before Saturday’s race.

“They went out pretty fast, and I was dead last out of 40 people,” he said laughing. “I think it was the hype about nationals, but I just went out and tried to run my race. …I passed a lot of people, but I got caught at the end.”

The 2022 champion was Kole Mathison, who began battling for the lead about the middle of the 5,000-meter race. Mathison, a senior from Carmel High (Indiana), crossed the finish line with a time of 14:56.6. Hansen was passed at the finish line by senior Noah Breker. Breker’s official time was 15:07.5, while Hansen’s was 15:07.7.

“I barely got out-leaned,” he said, noting the winning time was the fastest since 2007. “It was a fun race. I’m very excited.”

Interestingly, he said he’s been beaten by smaller margins – including at the Utah state championships as a sophomore where he said he was beaten by .01 seconds.

Other Utah teens qualified for the race and also ran well.

Spencer Bradshaw, a senior from Farmington High finished 24th with a time of 15:38.4.

“It went better than I expected,” he said. His only regret is that he thinks he could have caught a pack of runners midway through the race if “I’d started my kick a little earlier. But it was a really good race for me.”

Bradshaw was the lone returning member of Farmington High’s team that placed sixth at last year’s national championship. He started running in junior high and fell in love with the sport.

“I love the work,” he said. “I love doing a really hard workout. It hurts, but you feel like you did something…I love grinding hard every day to try and get better.”

Jeff Lewis, a senior from Corner Canyon High, said he had a disappointing race but an excellent experience. He finished 34th (15:51.1) and said the race was well-run and the athletes were extremely friendly.

“Everyone here is so nice,” he said. “The setting is really great.”

In the women’s race, Cailey Bracken, a junior from Mountain Ridge finished 32nd with a time of 18:46.

“I felt good, but I feel like I wasn’t 100 percent recovered from the qualifier race,” she said. “My legs were definitely a bit tired, but I still felt like I did good and raced as hard as I could. …It was amazing. I was so happy with how I did. I was honored that I got to come race the girls at this race. They’re some of the hardest working, fastest girls in the nation, and feel so lucky to qualify and come here.”

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Hailey Low, Layton, finished 36th in the girls race with a time of 19:21.1

Karrie Baloga, New Windsor, NY, won the women’s event with a time of 16:49.2.

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Woods Cross’ Sam Hansen Places Third At National Cross Country Championships