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Carson Burian led a young cross-country team to a Region 17 title last fall, and he's not slowing down. Read about his training methods, goals, and why he thinks 2019 will be his best year yet.

Running can be a lonely sport, particularly for high school athletes pursuing an advanced career. Rowland Hall's cross-country and track and field coach Mark Oftedal knows the situation all too well, having watched his son Eli—a 2015 alum and elite runner who now races for Colorado State University—endure many solitary training sessions. So when he met Carson Burian last fall, Mr. Oftedal recognized what the talented young runner was facing. "I told him, 'You're in a difficult situation, at a small school with a small team, training at your level.' I knew he would be off on his own quite frequently."

Indeed, Carson has experienced just that: long miles on the road alone, when he focuses on long-term goals—such as running in college—to stay motivated. This past summer, he logged between 60–65 miles most weeks, often training in Park City to escape the heat and ozone in the valley. The sophomore, who individually placed first at this year's Region Championship and third at the 2A State meet, used to play up to six sports. He didn't take running all that seriously when he joined the Middle School cross-country team, but after winning every race in his eighth-grade division, he realized that the sport might hold a future for him. Now, he trains year-round for races, competes in cross country and track, and supplements his running with weight lifting—and the occasional ski day, like many Utahns.

Mr. Oftedal described Carson as an intense, determined young athlete who does his research before races and sets realistic goals for himself. While he's competitive, Carson will never bad-mouth his competition—in fact, he wants to race against the best in the field, making a potential victory that much sweeter. "He wants to bring himself to and beyond the level of the people in front of him," Mr. Oftedal said. And since he's racing against juniors and seniors, he oftentimes has to be patient with himself. Carson can be philosophical about his performance, especially if he's not feeling in peak physical or mental condition on race day. "I still try to run the best race I can," he said, "and though I may be disappointed with my time, I'll usually understand why."

Mr. Oftedal described Carson as an intense, determined young athlete who does his research before races and sets realistic goals for himself. While he's competitive, Carson will never bad-mouth his competition—in fact, he wants to race against the best in the field, making a potential victory that much sweeter.For a young runner, Carson has already developed a balanced regimen of nutrition, sleep, hydration, and workouts. He's learned to listen to his body, and knows that adjusting his pace by five seconds will allow him to push through several more miles instead of hitting a wall. Much of his growth stems from intense training and research, both at Rowland Hall and elsewhere—he attended a running camp at Northern Arizona University this summer, which he credited with giving him an extra boost of motivation during the hottest months of the year. But Carson has also been forced to adapt at times due to injury: last December, he strained ligaments in his foot two days before a race, and then batted through ongoing pain at the start of the track season because he hadn't healed properly. Thankfully, he's stayed healthy since, and says he's hoping to shave another 20–25 seconds off his mile next spring.

Carson's talent and mindset are only part of what makes him a special athlete. His individual performances certainly help the team at race time, but his sportsmanship and leadership help everyone persevere through tough practices. He understands the importance of being a good teammate, and said he'll give others encouragement when they might be struggling, sometimes simply by running alongside them. "It's all about trying to create positivity within the group," he said.

That's a strategy Mr. Oftedal and his assistant coaches, Laura Johnson and Giselle Slotboom, often employ during races too. "We try to give runners cues, and so if someone is having a rough time we'll ask their peer to join up with them and give them a boost." In fact, the camaraderie Mr. Oftedal saw in this fall's cross-country team is one of the things that pleased him most: even with varying levels of ability and experience among the group, they were often running together at practice and training together outside of school.

Carson's dedicated approach to conditioning and wellness has rubbed off on his peers, according to Mr. Oftedal. "Anytime you've got kids that are pushing at the top, it's going to positively influence others." He noticed students comparing their patterns and choices to Carson's, and then emulating his habits or characteristics. "They realize it's not just about showing up for practice and putting in the miles. It's a lifestyle decision."

Mr. Oftedal was quick to add, "It's a gain for Carson, too," as he can find inspiration watching his teammates make huge improvements, and they encourage his growth in return.

This year's cross-country team was a young group, led by sophomores and juniors, which Mr. Oftedal and Carson find exciting. Their achievements included Region 17 titles for both the girls and boys teams, and a third-place finish for the boys at the 2A State Championship—only one point behind the second-place team. With no one on the boys varsity team graduating in 2019, Carson believes the top spot in the state will soon be within reach.

A successful season for me is when I meet these kids years down the line and they're still running—still finding joy in competing, or just running for themselves. —Coach Mark Oftedal

Carson's future, as well as the team's future, is undoubtedly bright, but Mr. Oftedal doesn't necessarily measure success in terms of championships. He recently heard from the parents of a 2012 alum that their son is training for a marathon, and that news is just as satisfying to Mr. Oftedal as any state title. "A successful season for me is when I meet these kids years down the line and they're still running—still finding joy in competing, or just running for themselves," he said.

And if they still hear Coach Oftedal's or a teammate's voice encouraging them to push through training sessions, well, that might just make the runner's life a little less lonely after all.

Athletics

Sophomore Sets Tone for Rising Team of Runners

Carson Burian led a young cross-country team to a Region 17 title last fall, and he's not slowing down. Read about his training methods, goals, and why he thinks 2019 will be his best year yet.

Running can be a lonely sport, particularly for high school athletes pursuing an advanced career. Rowland Hall's cross-country and track and field coach Mark Oftedal knows the situation all too well, having watched his son Eli—a 2015 alum and elite runner who now races for Colorado State University—endure many solitary training sessions. So when he met Carson Burian last fall, Mr. Oftedal recognized what the talented young runner was facing. "I told him, 'You're in a difficult situation, at a small school with a small team, training at your level.' I knew he would be off on his own quite frequently."

Indeed, Carson has experienced just that: long miles on the road alone, when he focuses on long-term goals—such as running in college—to stay motivated. This past summer, he logged between 60–65 miles most weeks, often training in Park City to escape the heat and ozone in the valley. The sophomore, who individually placed first at this year's Region Championship and third at the 2A State meet, used to play up to six sports. He didn't take running all that seriously when he joined the Middle School cross-country team, but after winning every race in his eighth-grade division, he realized that the sport might hold a future for him. Now, he trains year-round for races, competes in cross country and track, and supplements his running with weight lifting—and the occasional ski day, like many Utahns.

Mr. Oftedal described Carson as an intense, determined young athlete who does his research before races and sets realistic goals for himself. While he's competitive, Carson will never bad-mouth his competition—in fact, he wants to race against the best in the field, making a potential victory that much sweeter. "He wants to bring himself to and beyond the level of the people in front of him," Mr. Oftedal said. And since he's racing against juniors and seniors, he oftentimes has to be patient with himself. Carson can be philosophical about his performance, especially if he's not feeling in peak physical or mental condition on race day. "I still try to run the best race I can," he said, "and though I may be disappointed with my time, I'll usually understand why."

Mr. Oftedal described Carson as an intense, determined young athlete who does his research before races and sets realistic goals for himself. While he's competitive, Carson will never bad-mouth his competition—in fact, he wants to race against the best in the field, making a potential victory that much sweeter.For a young runner, Carson has already developed a balanced regimen of nutrition, sleep, hydration, and workouts. He's learned to listen to his body, and knows that adjusting his pace by five seconds will allow him to push through several more miles instead of hitting a wall. Much of his growth stems from intense training and research, both at Rowland Hall and elsewhere—he attended a running camp at Northern Arizona University this summer, which he credited with giving him an extra boost of motivation during the hottest months of the year. But Carson has also been forced to adapt at times due to injury: last December, he strained ligaments in his foot two days before a race, and then batted through ongoing pain at the start of the track season because he hadn't healed properly. Thankfully, he's stayed healthy since, and says he's hoping to shave another 20–25 seconds off his mile next spring.

Carson's talent and mindset are only part of what makes him a special athlete. His individual performances certainly help the team at race time, but his sportsmanship and leadership help everyone persevere through tough practices. He understands the importance of being a good teammate, and said he'll give others encouragement when they might be struggling, sometimes simply by running alongside them. "It's all about trying to create positivity within the group," he said.

That's a strategy Mr. Oftedal and his assistant coaches, Laura Johnson and Giselle Slotboom, often employ during races too. "We try to give runners cues, and so if someone is having a rough time we'll ask their peer to join up with them and give them a boost." In fact, the camaraderie Mr. Oftedal saw in this fall's cross-country team is one of the things that pleased him most: even with varying levels of ability and experience among the group, they were often running together at practice and training together outside of school.

Carson's dedicated approach to conditioning and wellness has rubbed off on his peers, according to Mr. Oftedal. "Anytime you've got kids that are pushing at the top, it's going to positively influence others." He noticed students comparing their patterns and choices to Carson's, and then emulating his habits or characteristics. "They realize it's not just about showing up for practice and putting in the miles. It's a lifestyle decision."

Mr. Oftedal was quick to add, "It's a gain for Carson, too," as he can find inspiration watching his teammates make huge improvements, and they encourage his growth in return.

This year's cross-country team was a young group, led by sophomores and juniors, which Mr. Oftedal and Carson find exciting. Their achievements included Region 17 titles for both the girls and boys teams, and a third-place finish for the boys at the 2A State Championship—only one point behind the second-place team. With no one on the boys varsity team graduating in 2019, Carson believes the top spot in the state will soon be within reach.

A successful season for me is when I meet these kids years down the line and they're still running—still finding joy in competing, or just running for themselves. —Coach Mark Oftedal

Carson's future, as well as the team's future, is undoubtedly bright, but Mr. Oftedal doesn't necessarily measure success in terms of championships. He recently heard from the parents of a 2012 alum that their son is training for a marathon, and that news is just as satisfying to Mr. Oftedal as any state title. "A successful season for me is when I meet these kids years down the line and they're still running—still finding joy in competing, or just running for themselves," he said.

And if they still hear Coach Oftedal's or a teammate's voice encouraging them to push through training sessions, well, that might just make the runner's life a little less lonely after all.

Athletics

Explore More Athletics Stories

Girl soccer players walking away with arms around each other.

Rowland Hall won its second-consecutive Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (UIAAA) 2A Directors Cup for excellence across three areas: athletics, academics, and sportsmanship and student leadership.

Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic said the prestigious award, announced July 13, demonstrates that Rowland Hall is home to some truly gifted student-athletes. “I am so very proud of our athletes for their efforts in the competitive arena as well as in the classroom,” Kendra said, “and thankful to our coaches who are so supportive of our student-athletes' academic commitments.”

Strong showings at state tournaments—along with high GPAs—helped Rowland Hall secure its second Directors Cup in the award's nine-year history. The UIAAA recognized seven of our teams for having the highest GPAs among their 2A competitors: volleyball, girls basketball, boys cross-country, boys tennis, boys track, and girls and boys soccer. And top-five finishes at state competitions included first place in 2A for girls soccer, second place in 3A for girls swimming, second place in 2A for boys soccer, third place in 2A for boys golf, third place in 2A for boys basketball, third place in 2A for girls golf, and fourth place in 3A for boys tennis.

The description of the Directors Cup, from UIAAA:

The UIAAA Directors Cup is awarded each year to the top school in each class that demonstrates combined excellence in athletic, academic, and sportsmanship and student-leadership [categories]. Each category makes up a percentage toward a school’s total ranking:

  1. Athletic (40%): The place or position a school team finishes in the state tournament.
  2. Academic (40%): Varsity team GPA.
  3. Sportsmanship and student leadership (20%): School’s participation in UHSAA-sponsored sportsmanship and leadership initiatives.

The top-five ranked schools in 2A:

  1. Rowland Hall: 15.26 points
  2. Gunnison: 13.47
  3. Waterford: 12.8
  4. Kanab: 10.12
  5. Layton Christian: 9.65

Rowland Hall's score also amounted to the fourth-highest point total among all classifications in the state.

Read last year's story about our first Directors Cup.

Athletics

Lizzie Carlin: Born to Run

Lizzie Carlin may only be a freshman, but she is already part of Rowland Hall history. In her first year on the track team she has broken the school records for both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, and she has her eye on the record for the 400.

“Lizzie’s really got goals,” said Mark Oftedal, head track and field coach. “She came in with goals in her freshman year, which is kind of unusual for a freshman to come in knowing straightaway, ‘These are the events I want to do. These are my goals. These are the times I'm shooting for.’"

Lizzie quickly turned her goals into reality. At her first track meet of the season she broke the school record in the 100-meter sprint with a time of 12.87 seconds. At the second meet, she claimed her second school record when she ran the 200 in 26.96 seconds.

Sibling rivalry may have had a bit to do with how Lizzie set her goals. The first two records she broke were set by her older sister, Emma Carlin ’17. Now though, while Lizzie’s still interested in breaking records, she’s running more for herself. “I just want to get faster,” she said. “I don't know if I really have an end goal, but I think mostly I'm just trying to get better with every practice and get the best times I can.”

Those amazing times may seem to come easy to Lizzie, but there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes. This is only her first year running track—ever. She was, and still is, a soccer player. As we all know, the two sports are very different. Yet, with the help of coaches she has been able to navigate between the two. 

“We're trying to work more with her to get rid of the soccer arms—when you're running with your elbows out because you're trying to keep people away from the ball,” Coach Oftedal said. “We're trying to get her more linear in her sprint form, which will help take her times down.”

Lizzie said the physical differences between the two sports haven’t been the only adjustment. She’s had to change her mindset as well. “It's probably the first individual sport I've ever done,” she said. “That kind of gives me more motivation to do it well, because I know if I mess up, it's not like my team can fix it for me. And so that makes me work harder.”

There is a lot of hard work in Lizzie’s future if she wants the school record for the 400-meter sprint. At the final meet of the year she ran the race in 1:01.44 seconds. Her best time for the year was 1.00.76. The record, held by Candice Nkoy ’15, is 59.47. Lizzie had hoped to break it before the end of the year, but just over a second still stands between her and making more history. Will she be able to do it?

“She’s got the speed, obviously,” Coach Oftedal said. “Over time she will build endurance, and be able to carry that speed throughout the length of the race better.”

Lizzie knows breaking the record will be a challenge, but she’s digging deep to make it happen. “It's just having the motivation to go out and train on my own, so that I can get better at it,” Lizzie said. “That's the hardest part for me.”

Lizzie’s coaches see her drive growing, and they’re helping her overcome any qualms or fears that may get in her way. “She says she hates to compete, but I think it's because she cares so much about the outcome, the results, that she gets nervous,” Coach Oftedal said. “She's young. She's learning to deal with her nerves.”

Lizzie is at the right school for finding motivation and overcoming challenges. After all, it isn’t a question of if, but when: she hasn’t broken the 400 record, yet. She still has three more years, and the whole school cheering her on.

Athletics

Ally Hansen

Senior Ally Hansen (pictured above, center) gave the following speech to 330 guests at Rowland Hall's biennial auction March 16. After she shared her story, a paddle raise garnered $88,050 for school financial aid. Thank you to Ally for her heartfelt words, and to our generous donors for empowering wonderful students like her to attend Rowland Hall.

I’ve been attending Rowland Hall since seventh grade, but before that I’d attended the same public school since kindergarten. It was considered small, yet it was almost twice the size of Rowland Hall’s middle and upper schools combined. Despite the size, I never really fit into the community. It was uninviting, unaccepting, and relatively unfriendly. I didn’t like it there very much, and wanted an escape. I looked at other options for middle school, but they were limited. 

A friend told me about Rowland Hall and I looked into it. I quickly realized it wouldn’t be an option for me, as there was no way I could afford it. Then, another friend—a Rowland Hall junior with whom I played competitive basketball—told me about the Malone Scholarship. So I applied, and here I am six years later.

Rowland Hall gave me something no other place had ever given me: a sense of belonging. I felt happy with who I was, quirks and all.

At my previous school, I was always the tomboy. I didn’t want to walk around talking about clothes or boys during recess; I wanted to play football on the back field instead. But I was never really included anywhere—the boys wouldn’t let a girl play with them, and the girls thought I was weird. During my first few weeks at Rowland Hall, I met this boy and one of the very first things he asked me was if I wanted to throw a football with him during recess. He is now one of my very best friends. This is just one example of the warm, loving, and accepting community I was quickly welcomed into. Rowland Hall gave me something no other place had ever given me: a sense of belonging. I felt happy with who I was, weird quirks and all. 

Rowland Hall made me realize my true potential and gave me all the tools I needed to be successful. I played basketball my two years in Middle School and all four years in the Upper School, making varsity my freshman year. This last year, I was lucky enough to be elected team captain. I was a good leader because I always led by example. I knew that if I did what I was supposed to, then others would follow in my footsteps. Also, I always pushed for “better” and never wanted to settle for “good enough.” Rowland Hall taught me what a real leader looks like, so when it was my turn to step into those shoes I knew exactly what to do.

Ally Hansen takes a jump shot in a basketball game.

Ally Hansen takes a jump shot in a January 10 basketball game.

I’ve been able to write my own ticket because of the education Rowland Hall provides. When I enrolled in Rowland Hall, I couldn’t have even imagined how great my life would turn out.

Lastly, Rowland Hall opened my eyes to all of the opportunities out there—ways to become the most successful person I can be. The school community made me feel like I was good enough to pursue my dreams. I’d been dead set on attending the University of Utah as long as I can remember. But my truly amazing counselors, teachers, and friends exposed me to the idea of expanding my horizons and considering other schools. Now, I’ll be attending Arizona State University (ASU) in fall, majoring in sports journalism and pursuing a dream I’ve had since I was little: becoming a sportscaster. I would have never even looked at that college had it not been for that very same seventh-grade friend who asked me to throw the football (he’s the one who told me about ASU), and for Rowland Hall, which opened my eyes to new possibilities.

My whole life is different because of my scholarship. I now have four of the most amazing friends anyone could ask for and I’ve been able to write my own ticket because of the education Rowland Hall provides. When I enrolled in Rowland Hall, I couldn’t have even imagined how great my life would turn out. None of this would have been possible without the Malone Family Foundation’s generosity. I will be forever grateful. I only hope that other people will be able to have the same opportunities and experiences I did. But for many, Rowland Hall is not a financial option without the generosity of people like you. So tonight, I ask you to please get out your phones and give generously to support future students like me. Thank you.

scholarships

Zack Alvidrez and team

Zack Alvidrez aimed to build a strong culture in the boys basketball program this season. What he created took the team to a third-place trophy at the State Tournament, their best-ever finish in 2A.

For Rowland Hall senior Trey Provost, the most memorable moment of the basketball season is precisely what you would expect: his buzzer-beating shot to take down Gunnison in the first round of the State 2A Tournament, which brought all his teammates onto the floor in celebration. It was a finish fit for March Madness—although it took place in February—and set the team on course for their best showing in the tournament in over a decade.

Coach Zack Alvidrez cited several joyous moments in the State Tournament, but one other game really stood out to him. It came during Region play, in a matchup at home against rival Waterford. Rowland Hall’s defense stymied their opponents, holding them to just two points at halftime—and the team’s locker room conversation was about how they could do even better. “That showed me they were ready,” Coach Alvidrez said.

As the new head coach this season, Coach Alvidrez’s primary goal was to build a strong culture in the program, one where hard work, communication, and responsibility were paramount. From their earliest practices, he sought investment from everyone on the team—regardless of grade level or experience—and vowed to match their effort. He made himself available for extra workouts, skill development, and weight-training sessions, and he regularly asked players for input, citing a desire to create shared ownership.

As the new head coach this season, Coach Alvidrez’s primary goal was to build a strong culture in the program, one where hard work, communication, and responsibility were paramount. From their earliest practices, he sought investment from everyone on the team—regardless of grade level or experience—and vowed to match their effort.

Such a strong commitment to the team stems from the love Coach Alvidrez has had for this sport since he was in eighth grade. After playing basketball throughout high school and college, he had a seven-year professional career internationally, which might have continued longer if not for a devastating injury to his Achilles tendon. Although he lamented the situation, Zack soon turned elsewhere, launching a competitive league and running basketball camps for kids, something he’d done periodically since college. He connected with Rowland Hall students through his league games, and three years ago began coaching for our Middle School. In fact, some players in Rowland Hall’s class of 2020 have been learning from Coach Alvidrez—in one forum or another—since they were in sixth grade.

Relationships matter, and as the foundation of what Coach Alvidrez has started to build at Rowland Hall, he taught his players to value their interactions with others. “He made us focus on being respectful to everyone, such as our own teammates, our opponents, our coaches, teachers, bus drivers…basically everyone we encountered,” Trey Provost said. Those high expectations were paired with incredible attention to detail on the court and Coach Alvidrez’s meticulous preparation before every game, watching hours of game film and producing long scouting reports to share with the team.

“I think a lot of our shortcomings can be made up for if I’m prepared, and we’re prepared as a team,” he said.

His approach worked. Rowland Hall went undefeated in Region 17 play, and finished third at the State Tournament, notching a gritty win along the way against the defending State Champions from Beaver High School. The standout play from Trey Provost and junior Isaiah Adams—who subsequently won Larry H. Miller Player of the Week honors—led the team during the playoffs, along with steady contributions from juniors Boston Ballard and Oscar Percy and seniors Maya Royer and Zander Smith. During the third-place game against Kanab, which required a second-half comeback to seal the win, Zander played “the game of his life,” according to Coach Alvidrez, scoring 23 points and playing excellent defense.

 

“All these guys stepped up,” the coach continued. “We had a true definition of a team. We didn’t have one guy to focus on—we had five guys on the floor at all times that needed to be accounted for.”

Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic lauded her new head coach’s performance in building team culture and modeling the high expectations he has for his players. “Zack is one of the best hires we’ve ever made in the boys’ basketball program, not because he knows and can teach the game so well, but because he gets it—he is able to strike a healthy balance between pushing the players on the court and expecting top-notch behavior off the court.” 

Playing a team sport…yes, it’s about wins and losses and championships, but if it’s done right, it should teach you life lessons and prepare you for college. —Coach Zack Alvidrez

Coach Alvidrez is excited for the future of basketball at Rowland Hall, not just because he believes the state championship trophy is within reach, but because he sees this sport as a vehicle for teaching the values and behaviors students need for lifelong success. “Playing a team sport…yes, it’s about wins and losses and championships, but if it’s done right, it should teach you life lessons and prepare you for college.” 

Also exciting to Coach Alvidrez: buzzer beaters, exceptional defense, and the overwhelming support he’s received from everybody in the school community. “It’s a huge blessing,” he said.

Athletics
 

You Belong at Rowland Hall