Records fall at Runners High Half-Marathon

Event attracts regional, international runners

By Don Cogger, Herald Sports Editor
Posted 6/19/24

In what’s become one of the most anticipated events of its kind in the region, the 2024 Runners High Half Marathon and 5K was held earlier this month, with a near-record number of participants …

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Records fall at Runners High Half-Marathon

Event attracts regional, international runners


In what’s become one of the most anticipated events of its kind in the region, the 2024 Runners High Half Marathon and 5K was held earlier this month, with a near-record number of participants and featuring several record-breaking performances.

Hosted by the High Uinta Athletics Association, the event featured 74 half-marathoners and 100 participants in the 5K, with social media marketing and word-of-mouth drawing in participants of all ages and abilities from around the region, as well as a handful of international runners.

“It was great, we feel like the event was a huge success,” said HUAA board member and event organizer Laura Prete. “The weather was beautiful. This is year number four for us, and it grows in different ways. This year, we had a runner from Kenya, a runner from Brazil, runners from probably eight different states, and all throughout Utah — we had a lot of Utah runners. So we really grew, in that way.”

Another way the event has grown is in the number of spectators who come out to cheer on the runners, according to Nathan Prete.

“Between all three races, we had just over 200 participants,” Nathan said. “We had about the same number of runners as last year, but we had a lot more people spectating this year. We even had people down at the finish line who weren’t cheering for anyone specifically — they just heard about it, and came down to watch it.”

In the men’s half-marathon, Evanston High School soon-to-be senior Paul Baxter won the event for the second straight year, posting a time of 1:24.13. Keeping it in the family, younger brother Bryan Baxter finished runner-up by less than a second, with a time of 1:24.58.

“Bryan Baxter is just 15, and ran his first half marathon,” Laura said. “His time was just so impressive — he ran a 1:24.58, and I think it could have been faster. He definitely had more to give.”

Evanston’s Michael Shelton made it a local sweep of the Top 3, placing third with a time of 1:26.46. It was Shelton’s first-ever half marathon.

“Michael Shelton is a local teacher — he teaches 5th grade at Uinta Meadows,” Nathan said. “He’s into fitness — more like weightlifting-type fitness — but this was his first race. He did an amazing job, and he was just beaming at the finish line. I think he’ll continue to run. It’s cool to see the younger runners get pumped about doing well, but it’s also great to see older runners succeed, and have fun doing it.”

Nicole Wayment, of Ogden, Utah, won the women’s half-marathon, posting a time of 1:27.03, a new course record. Evanston’s Liesl Botts finished second, with a time of 1:38.53; recent EHS graduate Jocelyn Capener placed third, with a time of 1:41.58. Both Botts and Capener ran cross country and track for the Lady Devils last season.

“The women really shined this year,” Nathan said. “The winners in the women’s groups put up really impressive times, in both the 5K and half marathon, setting new course records. They really set the bar higher, quite a bit higher, and in the case of the half marathon, they moved that bar quite a bit. It’s an impressive time, and the girl who won it [Nicole Wayment] is only 17-years-old. She’s from Utah, and really did a good job.”

More and more women are participating in the half-marathon, according to Nathan, a trend he finds encouraging. He’s also impressed with the number of girls from EHS who participated this year.

“We had a good number of girls from the high school run this year, and a couple of years ago, it was just one or two,” Nathan said. “In fact, two of the Top 3 winners of the women’s half marathon were cross country runners from the high school.”

In the youth (17 and under) half-marathon, Evanston’s Dallin Horrocks raced to the finish in a time of 1:33.50 to claim the top spot. Gideon Stahl — another recent EHS graduate — finished second (1:28.50), while Kolter Roundy (1:44.57) finished second and third.

Proving you can never have too many Baxters at the top of the leaderboard, Jared Baxter — a soon-to-be seventh-grader at Evanston Middle School — won the men’s 5K, with a time of 20.23. Evanston’s Ben Horrocks finished second, with a time of 21:39; Dane Berry rounded out the Top 3, with a time of 21:46.

In the women’s 5K, Ryann Smith — a Rawlins native who runs cross country for the University of Wyoming  — set a new course record, with a time of 19:49. Cheyenne’s Gracie Craig — last year’s winner of the Runners High 5K and previous record holder — finished runner-up, with a time of 20:25; soon-to-be EHS sophomore Hallie Prete rounded out the Top 3, with a time of 23:02.

“The girls’ 5K was really impressive — the new course record is now under 20 minutes,” Nathan said. “That’s a 6:22 per mile pace, an impressive time. The girl that won that is from Rawlins, and she runs for the University of Wyoming. Gracie Craig took second, and I think she’s committed to go run in college. The next person is just a freshman in high school, and that’s our daughter Hallie. Really impressive times for those groups.”

Evanston’s Jersey Kennedy won the youth (12 and under) 5K, crossing the finish line in 25:38. Titus Johnson was second, with a time of 27:17, while Aicen finished third, with a time of 28:02.

Full results can be found on the HUAA website, at


Becoming a destination event

With this year’s Runners High Half-Marathon and 5K a success, Laura and Nathan Prete said planning is already underway for next year’s event.

“There’s a lot of coordinating involved,” Nathan said. “We have to work with WYDOT for road permits, we have to get a parade route from the city, we work with the school district to rent some buses. We have a good board that’s doing all this, but we’d certainly be interested if people wanted to come in and help — it’s a lot of work, and a lot of it goes unseen. Hundreds of hours go into planning it, but it’s all worth it in the end.”

Marketing for the event involves a clever mix of advertising on runners’ websites, social media and word of mouth, and it’s working — this year’s event featured runners from more states than ever, as well as a handful from outside the country.

“Word of mouth has worked within the Evanston community, but we have websites where our 50 states runners can look up state-specific races, and I think a lot of our runners found us that way,” Laura explained.

As is the case every year, the event was not without its share of challenges.

“The construction from the overpass was definitely a challenge this year,” Nathan said. “It really caused us some concerns — not because we run over it, but because then traffic is re-routed down through the underpass. But we had really amazing support from the City of Evanston — they really delivered. We had plenty of officers that helped make it safe, the city road crew came out and helped set up barricades — those guys were awesome in helping us be successful.”

The event also relies heavily on volunteers, manning each checkpoint, handing out water and snacks and making sure runners are headed in the right direction.

“This year, we were lucky — we partnered up with the Evanston Youth Club,” Nathan said. “Holly West is on our board, and she’s also the director of the Youth Club, so she took the lead on this. We were able to have some of her staff help us, plus a large group from that organization that volunteered, helping us to man the aid stations, packet pickup, sorting out T-Shirts. Plus we had other people volunteering, as well. Like Nate and Shae Conrad — they volunteered, and spent three hours helping people cross roads safely. And they loved it. To have people willing to give their time — and do so with a smile on their face — is really great.”

The event has become a family affair for many, with families returning year after year to participate.

“It’s so great to see families wearing their matching T-Shirts, getting family photos taken at the finish line with their medals — we love it,” Laura said.

“We see a lot of little kids run the Fun Run — which is like a lap at the high school — then say, ‘Next year, I’m doing the 5K,” Nathan added. “To have kids under 10 years old, volunteering to run a 5K, is a lot of fun. They see their parents and their older siblings do it, so they want to, as well. We see people that are inspiring each other — whether it’s the kids challenging the parents to do it, or the other way around — we’re seeing a lot of that, and it’s great to see.”

The Pretes also enjoy watching as runners improve on their personal-best times, or make the transition from the 5K to the half-marathon.

“It’s really inspiring to see runners who we saw run their first 5K, and then the next year, they do the half marathon,” Laura said. “I think the growth there has been super-inspiring, and it’s the feedback we get from those runners that I personally love the most. They go from, ‘I didn’t think I could ever run a 5K,’ to ‘I can’t believe I just finished a half marathon. Thank you for giving me the chance to do that.’ Hearing that makes the many, many hours of planning that goes into this all worth it.”