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BLACKFOOT – College basketball has had a “Midnight Madness” celebration in place to celebrate the opening of the season and practices every fall.

Schools often sell out entire basketball arenas as they hold their first official practice of the new season and players and coaches are introduced to begin to build those relationships with fans and fellow students, and showcase some of their talents through drills and slam dunk contests that often get the fans excited about the new basketball season.

Snake River High coach Mike Kirkham started his own version of Midnight Madness three years ago, only it wasn’t with basketball, it is with his cross country team.

The team bought into the early morning start (12:01 a.m.), running under the light of the moon and stars, many with flashlights or with headlamps like miners wear when working deep under ground.

“We wanted to do something different and emphasize the start of the season each year,” Kirkham said. “These kids deserve all the credit as they have built this into something special each fall.”

The first Midnight Madness run only drew a handful of members of the cross country team and they tentatively found their way along the Blackfoot greenbelt along a course designed by Kirkham himself. They ran along the paved path along the Snake River and over a portion of the Blackfoot Municipal Golf Course.

The “Kirkham Course” as the runners call it, is approximately three miles, about the same distance as most cross country courses will be for competition. There is also a shorter course for the beginning runners that are coming into the program from the junior high ranks.

The program attracted nearly 50 runners this year. Kirkham started a new club within the cross country program a couple of years ago named the “300 mile club.” It was for runners who could log 300 miles during the summer between the end of school in late May and the start of fall practices in mid-August. That usually translates into those runners logging about 30 miles every week, which amounts to about five or six miles per day, six days per week.

Kirkham put up a prize for those who could finish the task, and there were a few who were able to sport a brand new jacket, with their name and “300 mile club” embroidered on the front and Snake River across the back.

This season, the cross country team set a record for jackets earned, some of them were even for a new “400 mile club” that was earned by some members of the team, including an incoming freshman.

As the summer running program has grown and more athletes are participating, the Midnight Madness portion of the kickoff of the season has grown as well.

This season started off with a video showing the highlights of the 2018 season, which produced individual winners of the district championships as well as both girls’ and boys’ team titles.