Not many high school cross country runners can say they finished in the top 10 of the state meet all four years.
Mountain Crest’s Tori Parkinson is one of those exceptions, and Utah State head coach Gregg Gensel definitely took notice.
Parkinson accepted a scholarship offer from USU and recently signed a National Letter of Intent to compete for the Aggies in cross country and track.
“The thing you look at in high school (runners) is you don’t want people that get good and then slowly decrease their times because they’re maturing or something like that,” Gensel said. “You want people who are either consistent or as Tori’s been, she’s gotten better every year, a little bit, in one thing or another, or in all of (her events).
“But I like what Tori brings as a person, as well as the fact that she has been a consistent, quality runner.”
Not only has Parkinson been consistent, her time at the 4A meet has improved a little bit every year. The daughter of Wendy and Kent Parkinson clocked in at 18 minutes, 37 seconds as a senior, which was good enough for fourth place. Parkinson also placed fourth as a sophomore.
“(The opportunity) means a lot to me,” Parkinson said. “I never would have expected it going into cross country. I just tried hard, and when I finished my senior year and I got (in the) top 10 all four years, I kind of surprised myself. I guess I didn’t really realize how good (of an accomplishment it was). And to get to go on and run in college, I wasn’t expecting it, so it’s way cool.”
Parkinson also considered offers from Utah Valley University and Southern Utah, but the allure of competing close to home and in the Mountain West Conference was too much to pass up.
Plus, the Wellsville native really enjoyed her visit with her future coaches and teammates.
“I got to meet the team and I got to know a few of the girls, and they were just way nice and the coaches were really great,” Parkinson said. “And I don’t know, there was just something about them that made me really excited to run with them.”
Gensel was certainly excited to keep a local standout in the valley.
“One of the things we always try to do is go after the local people first,” he said. “... We always recruit them. We don’t always get all of them, as you well know, but we recruit all of them. ... When we do get ones that stay home, it’s even better because it brings more interest in the program when they start competing for us.”
During Parkinson’s prep career, she placed third at the Region 5 cross country meet three times and second as a senior.
Parkinson also took a big step forward as a track athlete her junior year. The Mustang is the region’s reigning 800-meter champion, and Parkinson was a state medalist in the 800 (sixth place) and 4x400 relay (third place) in 2012.
At the collegiate level, Parkinson said the Aggies want her to try the 3,000 steeplechase. Parkinson also envisions herself as a competitor in the 1,500 (outdoor season) and mile (indoor season).
Whatever Parkinson ends up doing, Gensel is confident she will succeed because of how she approaches a race.
“She’s aggressive,” Gensel said. “She doesn’t just sit back and hope things happen, she tries to run in a way that she makes things happen and controls basically her own destiny, which I think is a great thing, a great attribute in a runner.”
Parkinson made it a point to thank her family and high school coaches for helping her earn this opportunity.
“I wouldn’t have been here without them,” she said.