Bonneville High School sophomore Stetson Moss ended his first national qualifier cross-country meet with an intense and historic finish.
In the top three with a mile remaining in Saturday’s Nike Cross Northwest Regional boys championship race at Eagle Island State Park, Moss was battling for second place with Bozeman (Mont.) senior Duncan Hamilton. Moss gave chase to Hamilton in the home stretch, closing the gap and lunging forward at the finish line. Hamilton took second to James Mwaura of Lincoln (Wash.) in 15:16.9 and Moss took third in a personal best 15:17.3.
Thanks to his finish, Moss, along with Mwaura, Hamilton, Eastlake (Wash.)’s Nate Pendleton and Bishop Kelly’s Nick Russell, qualified for Nike Cross Nationals scheduled for Dec. 2 at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Ore. Upon surveying some longtime District 6 cross-country coaches, the Post Register learned that Moss is the first District 6 high school runner to qualify for a national cross-country meet since Bonneville’s Jed Barta qualified for the Foot Locker Cross-Country National Championships in 1998. He is also the first Idaho boy to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals as a sophomore since Pocatello’s Elijah Armstrong did so in 2012.
Idaho’s 5A state champion, Moss said Saturday that he felt some nerves entering the meet. As the race progressed, he wanted to try to catch Hamilton.
“Near the end in the last mile, he had like 25 to 30 meters on me and I almost caught him at the end,” Moss said. “I really just wanted to go out and run the race of my life and see what happens.”
Moments after his finish, Moss was still taking it in. Qualifying for NXN was his goal, but seeing it fulfilled in a near photo-finish made for an an emphatic surprise.
“I didn’t really expect to place this well,” Moss said. “I really wanted to go to nationals but I thought there was going to be a really, really low chance of me doing that. I guess I just had godspeed with me.”
Bonneville head boys cross-country coach Alan Dopp said Tuesday in a phone interview with the Post Register that he and Moss had spoken in late October about peaking for Nike Cross Northwest rather than Idaho’s 5A state championships. Between the 5A District 5-6 meet (which Moss won) and state, Moss ran 800-meter repeats.
Dopp said the plan and the training paid off with Moss’s finish Saturday.
“His endurance is not only good, but he’s a really fast kid,” Dopp said. “Stetson is a really great kid to work with. He’s got that drive that you can’t teach somebody. Elite athletes, I personally think that they’re just born with that kind of drive and desire.”
Sharing in Moss’s and Dopp’s elation Saturday was Stephone Jordan, an Idaho State University student who volunteers his time coaching eastern Idaho athletes. Jordan, who has coached Moss since last November, was unable to be at Saturday’s meet, but he spoke with Moss over the phone an hour before race time and asked Moss to call him after he finished. Jordan had a good idea of when to expect the call, and it was Moss’s father Daryl who contacted him with the news.
“I let out a really big yell,” Jordan said Tuesday in a phone interview with the Post Register. “Honestly, it was always in the plan, that ‘what if?’ At the beginning of the season, he was preseason top 100 (in DyeStat.com’s national rankings). He had a goal to finish the season top 20. To do that, you pretty much have to make it to a national meet.”
Dopp and Jordan both said that Moss is not only very coachable, but knowledgable. He has made a habit of speaking to his competitors after races to learn more about their training routines, and he did that Saturday with Mwaura before leaving the finish area. Saturday was the second consecutive NXR Northwest title for Mwaura, who broke the 15-minute barrier a week earlier to repeat as Washington’s 3A state champion.
“I just kinda want to see if I can try to see if I can get some of his times,” Moss said Saturday. “It was good to get to know him a little bit better.”
Dopp said Moss has taken it upon himself to start those conversations with competitors.
“He’s realized there’s other people he can learn from,” Dopp said. “He just goes over and wants to know how he’s doing, what he’s like, what his training is like.”
Jordan said he believes Moss has much more in him, and he anticipates a strong showing next month in Portland.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he breaks 15,” Jordan said. “It’s been Stetson’s goal since right after Junior Olympics (in July).”
Skyline’s Harrison leads locals in NXR girls championship race
Skyline freshman Sariah Harrison concluded her first varsity season with a top-30 finish and a personal best in Saturday’s NXR Northwest girls championship race.
Harrison covered the Eagle Island course in 18:31.06, three seconds faster than her previous personal best of 18:34.7 set on the same course two weeks earlier at the 4A state championships.
“I’m pretty happy,” Harrison said Saturday. “It’s a good way to finish the season.”
Idaho’s 4A individual state runner-up, Harrison said she always feels nervous before meets, and NXR was no different. After Saturday’s race, however, Harrison said she is open to competing in an elite race again.
“I had no idea this is where the season would take me,” Harrison said. “It was great to run in such a big race and be in the mid pack with all those good runners. It was a great experience.”
Boys championship race local finishers
3. Stetson Moss, Bonneville, 15:17.28; 28. Kooper Williams, Sugar-Salem, 15:48.58; 29. Zach Erikson, Idaho Falls, 15:51.5; 67. Brennan Anderson, Sugar-Salem, 16:22.08; 120. McKay Harms, Skyline, 16:51.19; 122. Taylor Hill, Sugar-Salem, 16:52.06; 160. Isaac Corgatelli, Idaho Falls, 17:25.58; 161. Mitchell Athay, Idaho Falls, 17:25.65; 167. Parker Galbraith, Sugar-Salem, 17:30.9; 173. Joseph Ereaux, Idaho Falls, 17:47.79; 176. Matthew Gyles, Idaho Falls, 17:52.63; 177. Merrill Ward, Sugar-Salem, 17:52.79; 179. Zac Bright, Idaho Falls, 17:55.93; 182. Jaren Merrill, Sugar-Salem, 17:57.38; 187. Jared Williams, 18:20.02; 197. Andrew Wehausen, Idaho Falls, 20:39.44
Girls championship race local finishers
24. Sariah Harrison, Skyline, 18:31.06; 39. Rachel Morrin, Madison, 18:44.48; 67. Janessa Lemon, Madison, 19:16.44; 76. Karlie Callahan, Shelley, 19:25.30.