West Valley's Packard Heads to American Fork, UT, for Senior Year

West Valley's Brayden Packard competing at the SunFair Invite Saturday, Oct. 5. 2019, at Franklin Park in Yakima. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

YAKIMA - In the midst of a global pandemic which has kept high school athletes in Washington from competing this fall, several athletes have decided moved to different states to continue their high school careers.

West Valley of Yakima's Brayden Packard has joined the mix, but it wasn't just about sports.

The state's top 800-meter runner, who was third in 2019 in the event at the 4A state track meet, has transferred to American Fork High School in Utah to finish up his senior season of running.

Sports weren't the biggest concern though for Packard, like it has been for most athletes in Washington. It was the school piece that played a big role in his move down to Utah.

Packard had been a full-time running start student at Yakima Valley College this past year, and when it was announced in March the school had decided to stay online in the fall, Packard had told his dad, David, that he didn't want to do that again.

"While (Brayden) did well in his classes, it was quite difficult and required and inordinate amount of time and effort to maintain good grades," said David Packard in an email last week.

But this was more of a family based decision.

Yakima County, along with many more counties around the state, have been unable to reach Phase 2 of the state's four-phase Safe Start reopening plan, which then led to the WIAA announcing that the cross country season will now begin in March of 2021.

When looking around for different school options, the state of Utah had declared their schools will begin in person and all fall sports will be happening.

"Upon looking around, it seemed like Utah was more willing to do in-person," said David Packard. "So we decided as a family to move to Utah so Brayden can be in school, in-person and finish his high school running career.

American Fork has become a national powerhouse in cross country winning eight state championships and finished as runner-ups five times under coach Timo Mostert. In spring of 2017, the Cavemen boys set a national record in the 4 x 1,600-meter relay and had three runners between 4:02 and 4:06.

Last fall, Packard finished 28th at the 4A state cross country meet running 15:52.1, but had run a 5,000-meter personal best time earlier on in September running 15:28.8 at the Brooks Fort Steilacoom Invite.

Packard was set to be the cross country team captain this season for the Rams in hopes of leading them to a potential state title as a group, while also placing in the top five as an individual.

"We'll miss our West Valley running family, but had to what we felt was best," said David Packard. "He's a good kid and really tries hard to be the best runner and teammate he can be."

American Fork will begin school on the 18th of August and will require their students to wear masks. Packard is set to race in his first meet in just three weeks.

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