MIDDLETON--Eastern Idaho added to its streak of hardware from the 3A/2A/1A track state championships in a big way Saturday.
The Sugar-Salem boys won their third consecutive 3A track state championship and sixth in seven years, edging familiar foe Kimberly for another blue trophy and state banner. Diggers head coach Brett Hill said it was every bit the battle he anticipated with Kimberly, who won nine events and smashed some state records in the process. The title brings the career total to 43 combined state championships between cross-country and track for Hill, who confirmed that number Saturday. He won 25 at Firth and has won 18 at Sugar-Salem, and he said every state title has provided a different source of joy.
“It never gets old seeing kids excited to get a trophy,” Hill said. “Every year is so new and different. When you have a program be successful, you have to have older kids training your younger kids. That’s what our program has done.”
This year’s title featured several new faces upon the graduation of an accomplished 2018 senior class. One of this year’s seniors, Kooper Williams, ended his career having contributed to a combined six state championships in cross-country and track.
“Our team, it’s like one big family,,” said Williams, who won the 3,200, 1,600 (4:27.69), helped the medley relay place second (3:38.86) and placed fourth in the 800 (2:04.61). “I think a lot of it is the coaches. We have such great coaches.”
Fellow senior Gerohm Rihari, who placed second in long jump (22-7.5), fifth in triple jump (42-2.25), second in high jump (6-0) and was on the second place 4x100, was all smiles Saturday upon reflecting on his senior year. A member of Sugar-Salem’s 3A football and boys basketball state championship teams, Rihari said his senior year was a dream come true and track was uniquely special.
“I love the friends you make,” Rihari said. “I love how supportive our program is.”
Also getting a boys trophy Saturday was Salmon, which placed fourth in 2A. Sugar-Salem also placed third in the 3A girls standings with 68.5 points and West Jefferson and Firth placed second and third in 2A with 87 and 75 points, respectively, in a 2A team trophy race that was as tight as anticipated. It is West Jefferson’s fourth 2A girls track state trophy in four years and third runner-up trophy and Firth’s first trophy since 2015. Melba repeated as state champions with 99 points, but the lead was trimmed to nine after the 400 finals West Jefferson head coach Melinda Schwieder said she congratulated the Cougars on their trophy and Firth head coach Paula Tucker thanked the Panthers for competing at such a high level because it pushed the Cougars.
“It’s gonna be the same thing again next year,” Schwieder said. “To have two teams from the same district place in the top four at state says a lot about the talent in our district.”
Among the massive point scoring efforts by the Panthers and Cougars were three gold medal streaks in relays. McKenzie Sermon, Cambree Hall, Malaika Rogers and Sage Wood gave the Panthers their third consecutive state title in the 4x200 in 1:46.29 and Sermon, Rogers and Wood teamed up with hurdler and sprinter Jordi Holdaway to get a three-peat title in the 4x100 in a new 2A classification record of 49.80, fittingly with a gold baton. All five scored points in their individual finals Saturday as well.
“This is sweeter (than the first two),” said Holdaway, a senior.
“Going into track, I never thought about being a three-time state champ,” said Wood.
Firth’s Kaydee Park, Cassi Robbins, Abby Schiess, Jaylyn McKinnon concluded an impressive year in the 4x400 by repeating as state champions in the event in 4:09.81. They said there were nerves before the start, but they soon went away.
“As soon as the gun went off,” said Robbins.
“It’s been a good year,” added Park.