One of the high-profile competitions I watched in Saturday’s state track-and-field meet at BYU took place in the 5A boys 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter races.
That was where Lone Peak junior star sprinter Dominic Bentil faced off against Syracuse senior Hunter Woodhall, two of the fastest young athletes in Utah.
They are also visibly different, since Woodhall is missing both legs and runs on prosthetics known as blade runners. For years, motion scientists have debated the pros and cons in comparing runners like Woodhall to runners with standard physical form like Bentil.
On Saturday, Bentil had the edge in the 100, while Woodhall proved to be better in the 200 and 400. The Knight junior told me that to him the races had nothing to do with politics or science.
“It is a very different experience,” Bentil said Saturday. “I’ve thought about it. They put us in lanes out there and it’s you versus you. I love racing against him (Woodhall). I would any day. I’ll race anyone. I love him as a competitor and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Both Woodhall (21.17 seconds) and Bentil (21.40) broke Lehi’s Zach Morris’s state record in the 200, which was 21.47. Woodhall also broke his own 400-meter state record.
Woodhall has now completed his high school career but Bentil has another year to pursue setting new marks.
“I’ll be chasing his ghost all year long,” Bentil said with a grin. “The goal is to have those records only stand for one year.”
While the close finishes made the Bentil-Woodhall duel intriguing, Bentil was quick to point out that his main goals aren’t contingent on where he places.
“I gave it my best,” Bentil said. “When you give it your all and it’s not the best, you can’t be too sad about it. I’d rather finish seventh with a personal record than win with a bad time. I got a personal record today and I’m more than happy with that.”
In all my time covering state track-and-field, I have found that this is the fundamental motivation, whether I’m talking to a multi-race winner like Bentil or someone who didn’t even make it on the podium.
I saw that attitude personified in another way in Bentil’s Lone Peak teammate, junior Emily Ellis, who won all four of her events on Saturday. That is a feat that is incredibly demanding and she was very happy with the outcome.
Yet I watched as she looked at the scoreboard after winning her final event, the 5A girls 200-meter race, and I saw her briefly make a slightly disappointed face.
So I asked her why.
“I wanted to get a PR at least,” Ellis explained. “But after all of the other events, I can’t complain. My body can only do so much, apparently.”
When walking around at state track meets over the years, I have heard “PR” more than any other term.
It is the standard — the only standard, really — by which success is universally measured.
And that is how it should be.
Sometimes a PR is a state record. Sometimes the combination of individual success and team depth results in a team title, like it did for the Springville boys team this year.
Most of the time, however, it is just a reward for an athlete who put in the work and ended up doing better than they had ever done before.
There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of those moments during the two-day meet.
Since I love success stories, I wish I could write about all of them — but there are far too many than I could ever print.
But I still love hearing about them.
For the coaches and teammates and the athletes themselves, each of those achievements is memorable and precious.
I want to congratulate all the runners and jumpers and throwers and hurdlers who set new personal records at state in 2017.
Whether you placed first, last or somewhere in between, you succeeded.