Lovell High School cross country team celebrates 2023 season

David Peck

The Lovell High School cross country program celebrated a successful 2023 season Wednesday evening, Nov. 1, as coaches Caleb Sanders and Bret George handed out awards – some serious and some humorous – and honored performances and seniors.
Sanders began the evening by expressing his appreciation and thanks to several individuals who have helped the program this season including assistant coach and bus driver George, volunteer coach Scotty Savage, athletic director Nick DeWitt, the Lovell Chronicle, Jill Carpenter, Aubrey Walker, senior parents and his wife, Lexi.
Having lost around half of the team to graduation following the 2022 season, both George and Sanders said they didn’t know what to expect his year but were pleasantly surprised by the number of students who either ran cross country for the first time or moved to LHS from another school.
“This was a less-traditional season,” George said, noting that, rather than the usual pattern of athletes moving up from middle school, runners already in high school “showed up” to run this season. “We appreciated the non-traditionalness of the season,” George addred. “We appreciate the veteran runners, too, for their leadership.”
Although a slide show did not function, Sanders listed some season memories, then listed each runner’s season best times, most of which were also career personal records for a 5K course: Hugh Carpenter 22:40, Jay Mayes 19:59, David Durfee 18:39, Jacob Thomas 19:03, Stetson Asay 19:20, Thane Zollman 23:48, Atlee Sanders 26:53, Keyanna Walker 25:07, Hallie Cornia 26:37, Annalyn Marchant 38:00 (one meet), Sadie Wassmer 26:35, Sam Mayes 20:24, Cash Wassmer 22:41, Jaxen Clark 22:57, AJ Clark 18:48, Dino DeLaCruz 20:07, Owen Hill 19:41 and Candace Walker 25:56. Sanders noted the courage of Cornia, who he said ran on a stress fracture for the last three meets in which she competed.
Sanders presented several “spoof awards”: Rock Solid Shins and Best Speech Giver Award – AJ Clark; the Deion Sanders Good Looks Award – DeLaCruz; Most Improved in Gentility – Zollman; Endurance Award (running in the heat in long sleeves) – Hill; Athletic Tape Award – Marchant; Luckiest/Second Chance in Life Award – Jay Mayes; Best Progressive Runner (coming over from the golf team) – Thomas; Mysterious Decision-making Award – Sadie Wassmer; Two Jersey Award – Carpenter; I Love My Family/I Hate the Bus Award – Cornia and Keyanna Walker; Two-sport Award – Jaxen Clark and Thomas; Second Wind Award – Cash Wassmer; Best Hair After A Run Award – Sam Mayes; Subway Scholarship Award – Candace Walker; Mojave Cacti Award – Asay; Most Improved Starting Award – Durfee; Most Amazing Conversion Award – Sanders.
Turning to serious awards, Sanders presented the Inspirational Athlete Award, which is also a state award, to Cornia for battling through her stress fracture issues this season.
“She has run with us since the eighth grade,” he noted. “You want your senior year to be the best, and she was so optimistic, so positive. She was determined to run at State, and she did.”
The long all-conference runner on the team (top 10) was Durfee, who placed 9th at the Five Rivers Conference Meet in Ethete in a time of 19:31.
“He fought hard for this,” Sanders said. “Our conference is so much deeper than the other two.”
George noted that the top four finishing teams were the same at both the conference and state meets: Burlington, Wyoming Indian, Thermopolis and Lovell.
The Most Improved Runner Award for improvement during the season and also year to year was Asay, who improved his season time by 1:40 and generally in comparable meets improved his times from a year ago by two minutes or more. Honorable mention went to Thomas, Atlee Sanders and Jay Mayes.
Receiving the Male Athlete of the Year Award for recording the fastest time was Durfee, with Keyanna Walker honored for the girls team.
Summing up, Sanders said the girls team was quiet as a group but was a great group of competitors and a “memorable team.” The boys team actually improved its placing at the state meet despite losing four of the top five runners to graduation, he noted.
Sanders thanked the four seniors on this year’s squad: AJ Clark, Sadie Wassmer, Cornia and Keyanna Walker.
“I’ll miss you guys,” he said. “Hope you keep in touch.”