I.F., Skyline highlight big day at state XC

Skyline’s Sariah Harrison heads toward the finish line of Saturday’s 4A girls cross-country state championship race at Eagle Island State Park. She placed second in 18:34.62. Kyle Green / Idaho Statesman

Idaho Falls' Zach Erikson heads down the home stretch finishing in second place for the boys 5A race with a time of 17:50.44 during the state cross country meet at Eagle Island State Park. Saturday October, 28, 2017.

Kyle Green / Idaho Statesman

Bonneville’s Stetson Moss nears the finish of Saturday’s 5A boys cross-country championship race at Eagle Island Stae Park. Moss won in 15:51.41.

EAGLE ISLAND STATE PARK — For as intense as the Idaho Falls-Skyline rivalry can be, the District 91 schools had much to celebrate together Saturday.

Minutes after the 4A girls race concluded, coaches and parents rushed over to the Grizzlies to share some big news. Skyline had defeated defending state champion Twin Falls 54-58 to win its first girls cross-country state championship and its first state trophy since 2004. The girls’ eyes welled up and they covered their mouths in disbelief, then fell into a group hug.

Crying, smiling and taking it all in.

“It’s indescribable,” said freshman Sariah Harrison, who ran a personal best time of 18 minutes, 34.62 seconds to place second overall to tie a program-best individual state finish for a Skyline girl.

“It feels like all the practice I’ve put in throughout my life, I’m finally seeing that pay off,” said sophomore Adria Roberts, who finished 10th in 19:44.

Roughly a half hour later, giddy smiles and pats on the back were visible from the Idaho Falls boys at their tent. The Tigers had learned they had won their first state championship in 15 years — and first at the 4A level — with a score of 72. The victory margin was 40 points, and the elation persisted from photo op to photo op.

“It’s been amazing to see how far this team has come since my freshman year,” said junior Reed Eddington, who placed 14th in 16:38.38. “I’m just super proud of how we progressed this year.”

“It’s my freshman year, but to see us do this well is awesome,” added Mitchell Athay, who was 16th in 16:39.19.

The emotional celebrations made for a telling scene following the formalities of the 4A awards ceremony. The Grizzlies and Tigers drifted to the tent area where an official Idaho High School Activities Association State Championships banner hung in the shade. The Grizzlies gathered for photos in front of it first, then the Tigers. In between photos, blue and orange intermingled. Teammates hugged in their IHSAA sweatshirts newly adorned with ‘State Champions’ across the back, parents exchanged congratulations and coaches took turns holding the trophies.

The 15-year wait since the last state title and the work ethic of the 2017 Tigers made Idaho Falls head coach Alan McMurtrey choke up.

“Sheer joy,” he said. “It’s been so long. There’s a lot of good kids who have been part of this journey. It took all of them for this to happen.”

For I.F. junior Zach Erikson, who placed second overall in 15:50.56, euphoria was still settling in for a goal accomplished. The Tigers entered Saturday anticipating a challenge from Vallivue, which ended up placing third by one point to Canyon Ridge, and they left with three medalists and five top-30 finishes.

“I was overcome with happiness,” Erikson said of first hearing the results. “We’ve talked about it before and now it’s, ‘Oh, wow. It’s happened.’ It’s a dream come true. These guys, they’re all so dedicated.”

Seeing the Grizzlies win their first girls title a year after the boys won their first title in 19 years prompted an equally emotional reaction from Skyline head coach Sean Schmidt.

“I was a little bit surprised and also very happy,” Schmidt said. “It’s very exciting. They’ve put in the practice throughout the year and they’ve worked hard.”

While Vallivue was on I.F.’s minds, Twin Falls was on Skyline’s. The Grizzlies said there were some nerves at the starting line, and they were aware of the numerous Bruins jerseys around them on the course.

“There was a Twin Falls girl following me pretty close,” said sophomore Macy Olson (fourth place in 19:35.15). ” I knew I had to stay in front of her.”

“That’s what our coach told us was that every point mattered,” said junior Breanne Herrmann, who returned to competition last week after sitting out three weeks with a muscle injury and placed seventh Saturday.

Blackfoot’s Abby Hurst (sixth, 19:32.20), Blackfoot’s Tenleigh Smith (12th, 19:49.60) I.F.’s Emma Clarke (20th, 20:15.56), Skyline’s Dallin Hart (fourth, 16:20.26), Skyline’s McKay Harms (seventh, 16:28.55) and Blackfoot’s Austin Despain (18th, 16:42.16) also medaled.

District 6 hit another milestone in 5A. Bonneville sophomore Stetson claimed the 5A boys individual title in 15:51.42 to become eastern Idaho’s first male 5A champion since I.F.’s Adam Follett in 2003. Additionally, Moss became Bonneville’s first boys individual state champion since Jed Barta in 1998.

“That’s pretty cool,” Moss said.

Moss, who did not compete until the Bob Firman Invitational on Sept. 23 due to an ankle injury, said he entered Saturday wanting to see how he measured up.

“All I wanted to do today was come out and run my very best race and see how everyone else did,” Moss said. “There’s some pretty insanely good athletes out here.”

Madison’s Spencer Stutz (15th, 16:39.88), Hillcrest’s Zach Taylor (17th, 16:43.78), Madison’s Rachel Morrin (fifth, 18:34.07), Madison’s Janessa Lemon (10th ,18:52.63), Rigby’s Hailey Phillips (14th, 18:58.47) also medaled in 5A. Madison’s girls placed fourth for the third year in a row with a score of 130.