Provo • As Ryan Raff crossed the finish line, a loud whoop arose from the crowd in the stands at BYU’s Robison field.
It mattered little that his closest competition was 34 seconds behind him in the 4A 3200-meter state championship race — the cheer wasn’t for the competitiveness, but for the stunning time: 8:54.09.
The senior at Lehi High School smashed a state record on Thursday morning in the longest event of the meet, better than he’s ever run the 3,200 in his life, even at sea level. He was the only runner across the 4A, 5A and 6A classifications to finish under nine minutes among all boys in the state.
“I’m definitely surprised,” said Raff, with the ticker tape draped over his neck. “I didn’t want to focus too much on it, because it gets me tired. And when I’m tired, my form kind of goes out the window. But I thought I could run sub-nine.”
The 4A state champion in cross country last fall, Raff stands alone against 4A competition. But he’s also fighting for first in the annals of state history, where he beat the previous 4A record (Connor Mantz, Sky View) by more than three seconds.
He also beat another mark that was important to him: American Fork’s Casey Clinger’s 5A record set last year (8:57.90). That was in a race Raff ran in, when Lehi was in the same classification as the Cavemen, perennial powerhouses in all running disciplines. Raff lead for much of the race, but fell back to fourth in the end as Clinger pulled ahead of the pack.
Raff has been pacing himself against American Fork runners for years — the crosstown rivals are fewer than four miles away. They’re some of his closest friends, he said, but there was an undeniable sense of satisfaction as he realized he had bested Clinger’s mark.
“I kind of always looked at those guys as legends — gods, kind of,” he said. “To be able to doing the stuff I’m doing now, it’s fun to keep the connection with those guys and beat them.”
Incredibly, Raff wasn’t the only Lehi runner to best all other classifications in the 3200m race — his teammate, Anna Martin, triumphed in the 4A heat, and her 10:46.59 was nine seconds ahead of her closest competitor among 4A, 5A and 6A racers.
Martin is a sophomore, but she’s announced herself as a prodigy in one season with the Pioneers: She took second in the fall in 4A cross country and has been pacing the team throughout the season.
“It’s been really exciting,” she said. “It’s what I’ve been shooting for all season. I didn’t know if I could win, but I thought I could go under 11 [minutes].”
Both runners got a chance to watch the other win. Raff watched Martin’s last lap as he went through his own race prep, then Martin, still catching her breath, was able to see Raff’s last 3,200 race in his state high school career.
The crosstown rivalry between the Cavemen and the Pioneers isn’t what it used to be since American Fork stepped into 6A and Lehi moved down to 4A, but both schools are still watching each other’s numbers — which made the win all the more fun.
“It’s nice to be competitive,” Martin said, “and to know you can race with the best of the best.”
Raff has only one more race, the 1,600, to run for Lehi, but he’ll continue his track career at Northern Arizona after his mission. After Friday, when the state meet concludes, he’ll feel at rest — both in his legacy, and the future of the Lehi track team.
“Anna is just this small, little girl from Lehi, but a crazy good runner. Nobody expected this from her,” Raff said. “The sky’s the limit for her, and it’s good to know the program won’t die when I’m done.”