Utahns Excel at MTB Nationals; Clouse and Sparks Win Categories

By Jared Eborn

With the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross Country National Championships just up the road in Sun Valley, Idaho, it came as no surprise that Utah was well represented at the starting line.

Accordingly, the Beehive State saw plenty of podiums ranging from the professionals to the elite amateurs — during the long weekend of racing in July.

Alex Grant overcame a less-than-favorable back-row start and pulled out an eighth-place finish in the mens pro race as he slowly reeled in one competitor after another.

“I always go to nationals or at least I try. I've been hoping for the top 10, and I've never gotten it before. I can't believe I just did that, Grant told Cyclingnews.com after finishing less than eight minutes behind the winner, Todd Wells. I took a start on the back row, and I got caught in a traffic jam on the first lap and was walking up the climb. A lot of times in the cross country, I get caught up going as hard as I can in the first lap and then I go backwards. This time I moved up the whole time.”

Grants finish in the men's race was followed by a solid 11th-place showing by Heber City's Kathy Sherwin in the women's pro field.

Park Citys Jordan Swenson earned a national title in the Super D 50+ field with a time of 22:27 almost 40 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor. Grant had another strong showing in the short race and placed ninth in the Men's Pro division.

Keegan Swenson, a Park City youngster making a big name for himself in the past year or two, placed second in the Junior 15-18 Short Track race getting pipped at the line by Durangos Howard Grotts. Sherwin climbed the standings a few spots and brought home a fourth-place finish in the Women's Pro Short Track race.

Swenson finished second to Grotts again in the Junior 17-18 Cross Country race.

Sandy's Robbie Squire, fresh off his national championship performance in the U23 Men's Road Race a month ago with his Chipotle Development team, dusted off his mountain bike and put a scare into the Mens U23 Cross Country race, placing third despite not having raced on dirt this season.

Showing they are still some of the fastest cyclists around, Utahs Laura Howat and Ellen Guthrie placed second and fourth, respectively, in the Womens 50-54 cross country field. Bountiful's Brandon Cross showed his stuff in the Mens Cat 1 25-29 division with a seventh place finish, less than three minutes off the podium.

Dwight Hibdon, Park City, landed on the podium in the Mens 60-64 race with a third as did South Jordan's Joel Quinn in the Mens 65-69 field. Swenson grabbed a sixth-place finish in the Mens Cat 1 50-54 competition while Farmington's Aaron Campbell added another strong finish as he crossed the line in ninth in the Mens Cat 1 35-39 field.

Showing that Swenson and Squire aren't the only young talent in the state, Springville's Griffin Park placed ninth in the Junior 15-16 Cross Country race. Bountiful's Zach Peterson placed third in the Junior 13-14 while Park City's Haley Batten snagged fourth in the girls 13-14 race.

Park City duo Katie Clouse and Sydney Palmer-Ledger finished first and second, respectively, in the girls U10 race, adding to Utahs collection of Stars and Stripes jerseys.

Getting the victory parade started, though, was Brigham City's Jason Sparks. The 42-year-old led a Utah sweep of the podium in the Mens Cat 2 40-44 field with Mark Messer and Ryan Nielsen flanking him atop the steps.

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