Runners to Watch
Luke Athay, Idaho Falls soph.: Athay was the only freshman to medal on Idaho Falls’ 2020 5A state championship team, placing fourth. He broke the 16-minute barrier three times last season.
Danny Simmons, Salmon soph.: The defending 2A state individual runner-up, Simmons was a strong addition to an already powerful Salmon team. He broke 16 minutes twice, including a 15:51 at the 2A state meet.
Eli Gregory, Blackfoot sr. : The defending 4A District 6 champion led the Broncos to the 4A District 6 team title last year and a third place at the 4A state meet. He ran a personal best 15:58.8 last October.
Porter Holt, Sugar-Salem junior: Sugar-Salem head coach Brett Hill said Holt ‘came out of nowhere’ last season, winning the 3A District 6 individual title and leading the Diggers with a third place finish at state in 16:50.2. Hill said he expects Holt to again form a strong duo with senior Brigham Dalling.
Ryan Stutz, Madison sr.: A two-time state medalist, Stutz consistently placed not far behind Will Dixon last season. With Dixon graduated, Stutz brings a personal best 16:03.4, ambitious goals and vocal leadership to the 2021 Bobcats.
Nelah Roberts, Skyline soph.: Skyline’s first individual girls cross country state champion, Roberts’ winning time of 17:52.1 was the fastest all time 5k by an eastern Idaho girl. She also owns Skyline’s girls 1,600 and 3,200 school records.
Alivia Johnson, Bonneville jr.: The two-time state medalist is healthy again after an abbreviated sophomore track season. The Post Register’s reigning All-Area Girls Runner of the Year, Johnson won seven meets, placed third at the 4A state meet and ran a personal best 18:07 last year.
Jaresa Jackson, Sugar-Salem sr.: Jackson has been part of three consecutive state championship girls cross country teams. A two-time defending individual state runner-up with a personal best 19:38.6, Jackson is in the mix to win 3A individual gold.
Elanor Eddington, Idaho Falls jr.: Idaho Falls’ top finisher at the 2020 5A state meet , Eddington ran a personal best 19:18 as a sophomore and helped the Tigers claim the fourth place state trophy.
Kennedy Kunz, Bonneville soph.: Kunz formed a 1-2 punch with Johnson to help Bonneville place fourth for their first girls cross country state trophy ever. She ran a personal best 18:58.91 and placed fifth at state.
Teams to watch
Sugar-Salem boys and girls
The Diggers return every member of last year’s 3A boys and girls state championship teams, putting them in position to stretch their 3A title sweep to a fifth year.
The defending 4A state champions will be battling a tight 4A field including eastern Idaho counterparts Preston, Pocatello and Bonneville for this year’s state title.
Salmon boys and girls
Salmon is three-time defending 2A boys state champion, and the girls have placed third the last two seasons, including finishing one point behind powerhouse Soda Springs last year.
Idaho Falls boys
The Tigers have set the standard as of late, winning four consecutive state titles from 2017 to 2020 (three in 4A, one in 5A). New faces join a team that produced an impressive low score of 23 to win last year’s 5A state title.
With nothing but underclassmen competing at last year’s state meet, the Broncos have been pinned as a legitimate threat to Preston and Pocatello for a 4A state title this season.
Cardinal Classic, Sept. 4 at Kelly Park, Soda Springs: The annual meet that takes place over Labor Day weekend already has an impressive 40 teams registered, including three-time defending 5A girls state champion Boise and five teams from Wyoming and Utah.
Tiger-Grizz Invitational, Sept. 10 at Freeman Park: The largest meet in District 6 takes place the week after the Cardinal Classic. Tiger-Grizz is back to a one-day schedule this year and already has 45 teams registered.
Bob Firman Invitational, Sept. 25 at Eagle Island State Park: Idaho’s largest meet is back on tap this year after being canceled due to COVID in 2020. The national caliber meet so far has 152 high school teams registered, including California powerhouse Great Oak, 2018 Nike Cross Nationals girls champion Summit (Ore.) and multiple Nike Cross Nationals qualifier Jesuit (Ore.)