McNiven wins Yellowstone Conference meet

By David Peck

Howard McNiven is a conference champion. The Burlington eighth-grader captured the Yellowstone Conference boys individual championship for the Rocky Mountain Middle School squad Friday afternoon at Homesteader Park in Powell, beating a pair of tough runners from Cody and Worland in the process.

Coach Tim Jones said the Powell course was about 165 yards longer than the normal two-mile course, but some of the Rocky Mountain runners ran their best times of the season, even at the longer distance.

McNiven won the race with a time of 12:09, beating Christler Jarrett of Cody by 12 seconds (12:21) and Krew Neighbors of Worland by 22 seconds (12:31).

“Howard ran great,” Jones said. “We had a plan for him, and he went out and won the whole thing. Since I’ve been coaching (13 years), he’s the only runner who has won the conference meet.”

And as for the plan for McNiven?

“He’s not going to beat guys in a (final) sprint. He had to go out early and make guys chase him to exhaust them,” Jones said. “He worked really hard to build a big lead and hold on and win. He beat two kids he hadn’t beaten this year. He worked really hard to put the strategy in place.

“And he just hates to lose.”

As a team, the Grizzlies placed fifth with 197 points behind conference champion Cody (46 points), Lander (67), Worland (79) and Lovell (171). The Grizz beat Thermopolis, Riverton and Powell.

Jones said the team has been with some injuries and illness late in the season and “never really recovered.” For instance, eighth-grader Xander Tippetts had been the third-place runner on the team throughout the season but broke his wrist in PE the day before the meet and couldn’t run, Jones said. And seventh-grader Jack Gutierrez hasn’t felt well the last couple of weeks and wasn’t in top form Friday, he added.

After McNiven’s first-place finish, the next runner for the Grizzlies was sixth-grader Skyler Tippetts, who placed 23rd, running his best time of the season on a two-plus-mile course at 13:59.9.

“Skyler ran really well,” Jones noted. “He ran under 14 seconds despite the longer course. He did a good job against the bigger schools.”

Another sixth-grader, Sam Loyning, placed 46th out of 108 runners with a time of 15:17, and seventh-grader Riley Moorhead ran his best race of the season to move up to fourth place on the Rocky squad, finishing 49th with a time of 15:19.

“Riley ran a good race,” Jones said. “He stepped up and did a good job.”

Gutierrez, though not feeling well, Jones said, finished fifth on the Rocky team, 55th overall, with a time of 15:39.

Other Rocky Mountain runners were Burlington eighth-grader Joey Worthen, 16:03; sixth-grader Rylan Stebner, 16:44, his best time of the season; Burlington eighth-grader Colt Haslam, 17:24; sixth-grader Matkin Cain, 17:28; eighth-grader Nick Cain, 18:23; sixth-grader Dalan Wambeke, 20:04.

“All of my kids ran with great intensity and good effort,” Jones said.