The Idaho State meet was held Saturday on the challenging course at Eagle Lake north of Boise. This was a strong group of runners, who deserve getting the credit for a special season even beyond their State performances and this effort is an attempt in so doing. As always there were some triumphs as well as disappointments, which is always the way it is in life. We were not on hand, as we were covering the Westside District, but this meet was hardly beyond our thoughts. What follows is a look at the meet, especially through the eyes of some of its participants and my thanks to Dallin Farnsworth, Erik Harris & Sam McKinnon for sharing their experience.
Dallin Farnsworth of Highland was the defending State champion and he has had a banner year with triumphs at Cardinal, Tiger/Grizz & Firman to list just a few. He is undefeated for the 2011 campaign against Idaho competition with his only ‘loss’ being a third place finish against strong California competition at the Clovis Invitational. Champions often come into a race with expectations that go beyond simply winning and Dallin had high goals, as he approached the meet and in this case it was a time of 15:20, which would be most impressive at Eagle Island.
A time as fast as Dallin ’s goal takes a brisk pace & Farnsworth went out accordingly. It also needs a little help but in spite of the fact that his challengers were all fine runners in their own right (Thomas Rigby was the Boise City champion & placed second at the Dani Bates, Justin Ross had won at Camelsback, Caldwell & Gibb Floyd, Cody Curtiss triumphed at Farragut & Jake Meeker had been victorious at Clash Valley) Dallin rolled through the mile with a lead of thirty meters. He continued on alone pushing the pace but noted in the last half-mile, that he backed off a bit, which is understandable. In the end Dallin came home in a fine time of 15:40.58 narrowly missing the course record of Barak Watson of Columbia, who ran 15:39.91 in 2008. His time, however, was well under the 5A of 5:46 established by Eric Fitzpatrick.
Thoms Rigby of Boise followed Dallin across the line in second in a time of 16:18, while Cody Curtis of Coeur d’ Alene earned third with 16:22 but had the satisfaction of leading his team to victory with a low of 49 points. Mountain View with 85 & Boise with 92 points placed second & third respectively in the team race. Justin Ross of Rocky Mountain took fourth in 18:23, while Miles Ranck of Boise & Jake Meeker of Mountain View garnered fifth & sixth.
Dallin joined his brother Taylor as a State champion last year and now leads the family with two titles. One can only hope he joins Taylor on the select list of Idaho Foot Locker qualifiers. First stop, however, along the way is the NXN Northwest Regional at the same venue, where he & many of the top Idaho runners will face some of the top runners from Oregon, Washington, Montana & Alaska.
The vagaries of the racing experience were in bold display in the girls’ 5A race. The field was the deepest of all the divisions for Idaho girls. Emily Hamlin of Boise had a somewhat rocky start to her early season but was on a roll during the later portion with victories at the Dani Bates and District & a second in the Boise City Meet to Emily Nist. Mikayala Malaspina of Vallivue had triumphed at Canyon City & Gary Ward & Jordan Mathes of Mountain View had earned second at both Camelsback, Gibb Floyd & District & had been twelfth at Nike Pre-Nationals. The question mark in the race appeared to be Sam McKinnon, Jordan’s team mate, who had won both Camelsback & Bates and had a brilliant race at Nike Pre-Nationals by taking fourth in a very strong field. Her last few meets had left me concerned and as it turns out for good reason, because she had suffered a foot injury, which hampered her in the last few races. It had not been well known but running on her foot had become painful, as if she was suffering from a stress fracture, although it is yet to be diagnosed as that severe.
Of course this was the State meet and everyone is willing to put up with a little pain, right? On the line was not just the individual event but the team title and Mountain View was one of the top teams in the northwest, much less the state. The start of the race went as anticipated with the anticipated runners racing in the lead pack: Hamlin, Malaspina, Josie Brown, Rachel Sullivan & Jordan Mathes and right with them early was Sam Mckiinon. They remained in a pack until a little after the mile mark, when Sam began to feel the pain. She soon went from a leading position to being out of the top ten and would be forced to fight her way the rest of the race.
While Sam dropped backed Emily Hamlin was putting the pressure on the leaders and she opened a gap over her challengers and raced home by herself with a fine time of 1836. The Boise runner earned a ten second victory over Mikayala Malaspina of Vallivue. Josie Brown of Coeur d’ Alene claimed third in 19:04 & was followed in turn by Rachel Sullivan of Centennial (19:05) & Jordan Mathes (19:06). Still the team action was going on, as a race within itself and team members are supposed to pick up their comrades and that was what happened for the MV girls. Valerie Mitchell passed Sam and was promptly told “you have to go ‘cause I can’t”. Val responded to the plea & the additional message to catch the girl ahead from Boise and like a dutiful team member she went beyond that passing two Boise runners and a number of others. Her final finish was ninth place just behind Cara Story of CDA, who ran 19:27. With a mile or so to go Angie McGraw of Mountain View, who took 15th in 19:54, passed Mckinnon and moved further up the rankings. A totally spent Sam struggled in vain to hold off the hard-charging runners at the very end of the race, three of whom were from Boise but it was not from lack of effort. That is sadly the way it goes sometimes but it was a valiant effort and should be lauded & there will be other and better days down the road. The final team scores saw Boise take the title with a low of 62 to best Coeur d’ Alene ’s 66 & Mountain Views’ 75.
For Emily Hamlin it was a day of triumph against a solid field and one can not take lightly what she accomplished. Her final time was only about two seconds off the time of Nicole Nielsen of Borah, and Nicole was a Foot Locker National Finalist. Idaho has only had two girls qualify for the World Series of prep running in the 32 year history of Kinney/Foot Locker (Mary Lyons, who won in 1979 was the other) and to be in that same territory is quite special!
For the last decade Bishop Kelly has been the dominant team in 4A and for the last four years the leader of the gals has been Emily Nist. Emily separated herself from her challengers during the second loop of the course to claim her third State crown. In her four year career at State she has only one finish, second last fall to Mackenzie Chojnacky, other than first, so Emily just missed being a four-time winner. Sierra Manzer of Kuna took second behind Emily with a time of 19:00 & Mikesell Clegg of Jerome earned third with 19:11. Jasmine Nesbitt added a fourth place effort for Jerome with her time of 19:28 and then Bishop Kelly runners Briana Tiffany (19:32.09) & Rebecca Lassere (19:32.96) secured fifth & sixth places, which pretty much locked up the team battle. The final score saw BK win with 58 as Hillcrest was a distant second with 111 points. It should be noted also that Rebecca Lassere has been a very dependable runner for Bishop Kelly the last three campaigns with State meet finishes of 6th – 7th - 6th.
This race was a bit hard to figure going into race day, but Erik Harris of Twin Falls was not only the defending champion, he was a four-time State qualifier. Still his early season had been limited by tendonitis in a time, so the base mileage was not quite what Erik would have lie. Of course he still had a fine campaign that included wins at Dani Bates, Canyon Ridge & Mountain Home not to forget District. Into the picture, however, stepped freshman runner Elijah Armstrong of Pocatello. Elijah made it clear early in the season that he was not just any freshman by placing sixth at Firman. Along the way he accumulated victories at the A F Invite, American Falls & District. His only late season loss was to Dallin Farnsworth in the Pocatello City meet – I think we can excuse that one?!
So in contemplating the division it was a little bit like the old conundrum of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Having no respect for his elders, which in running is a very good thing, Armstrong pushed the pace from the beginning. Erik would later note that “I just didn’t run my race and it came back to bite me.” That, of course, is hindsight but it is a fundamental question in running about, when one should follow or lead and it just the nature of running that the answer never is always the same.
About midway in the race Erik came down with a side stitch, which at times has been an issue for him in the past. With Erik struggling a bit Elijah forged a lead that he would not relinquish, as he sped home in a brisk 15:50. That time would be one most senior runners would be very pleased with but for a freshman, it is blazing. Going into race day the freshman record had been 16:06 by one Dallin Farnsworth. Not even the sophomore record for Idaho guys is that fast so it is hard to argue the issue. Erik Harris put it bluntly, when he affirmed (Elijah) “Probably is the best freshman Idaho has seen.”
Behind Armstrong and Harris was third place finisher Jake Powell of Hillcrest, who ran 16:31. Haydin Herndon of Pocatello earned fourth with 16:33 & Sam Lavora of Sandpoint claimed fifth with a mark of 16:42. One of the most commonly reiterate line for cross country coaches is that ‘every runner counts’ and Saturday’s 4A race offered a case in point. When the final results were tallied Pocatello & Preston were tied with scores of 75. That meant that the person, who determined the victory would be the first sixth place finisher of the two teams, who just happened to be Mitchell Nielsen of Pocatello, who ran 18:10. He placed 65th and is only a freshman, yet Mitchell made all the difference between first & state trophies on Saturday.
Alice Keller of Salmon ran away from the field in the girls’ 3A race to win with a time of 18:58. Marquita Palmer of Weiser placed second in 19:19. Rachel Youren scored in the 2A girls’ race with 19:28. Tyler Jaszkowiak of Challis garnered the boys’ 2A with 16:26 by edging James Crevelt of Cascade by eight-hundredths of a second. James Withers of Snake River secured the 3A crown for guys’ with his clocking of 16:41, which saw him cross the line six seconds ahead of Gage Moore of Filer.
For most runners Saturday marked the end of the campaign and it is time for a brief respite before gearing up for the spring, possibly indoor, campaign for track. Still for others Saturday marked the beginning of the second season with teams pointing for Boise & the Northwest Regional & some individuals California Dreaming and Foot Locker. Erik Harris noted his goal is to “redeem himself at Nike” (not that he truly needs to do so, for every distance runner tastes of defeat in his career. It is a given which goes with the territory.) It is just unfortunate, when it has to happen at State. The good news is that there will be other days with time for redemption, if one feels it is needed. The nice thing to remember is that real fans are able to go beyond the mundane of simple wins and losses. On the Friday prior to State one fan expressed it in a simple yet beautiful way and we will leave it at that:
“Game lpan: run fast. Then keep running. And, when you want to stop, think of all your friends cheering for you and run just a little faster for a little longer. Then you win or do your best and friends still cheer cuz that’s what we’re here for:)” I hope everyone retains those cheers long after the race.