The annual Tiger-Grizz Invitational on Sept. 13 at Freeman Park may have provided some foreshadowing for the Idaho Falls High School cross-country program.
The Tigers swept the JV and varsity A boys and girls titles at that meet, which was believed to be a first, based on the consensus of long-time District 6 coaches. Idaho Falls did one better Wednesday on the same course, sweeping the girls and boys titles at the 4A District 6 championships. The Tigers won the boys title for the third year in a row while the girls won districts for the first time since 2014, when they were 5A. Wednesday was I.F.’s first district cross-country sweep this century, as Post Register records going back to 1999 showed no evidence of a sweep.
While the I.F. girls edged two-time defending district champion Skyline by seven points, 32 to 39, in a close team race as anticipated, the boys made an impression by winning with a perfect score of 15. After junior Zac Bright won the boys race in 16:37.30, teammates Mitchell Athay, Joseph Ereaux, Isaac Corgatelli and Porter Elison finished behind him in order. Bright, Athay and Ereaux turned around after they finished to cheer on Corgatelli and Elison as they ran down the final stretch, and Bright was there to embrace Elison as he took fifth to wrap up the perfect score.
“We were trying to get it at all city, but Mitchell had shin problems so he took that week off,” Bright said. “So we were looking at athletic.net and and we were like, ‘We have a really good chance of doing it at districts.’ We knew Porter and Isaac were gonna have to beat two people to do it.”
Wednesday was the second win in as many meets for Bright, who won the Idaho Falls city meet a week earlier. He began Wednesday’s race in third behind Athay and Ereaux, respectively, before passing both of them prior to the hill where the Vietnam War memorial is situated. Alan McMurtrey, who has been Idaho Falls head cross-country coach since 2000, said he has never seen one of his teams get a perfect score at a district meet.
“We’ve done it at a JV meet in Twin Falls and a varsity meet in Blackfoot, but to do it at districts ... they are just freaking amazing,” McMurtrey said.
Hannah Kohler, Allison Lemons, Jennalee Lewis, Elanor Eddington and Kamryn Comba finished 3-5-7-8-9 in the girls race to help Idaho Falls edge Skyline, whose top five of Sariah Harrison, Macy Olson, Adria Roberts, Reagan Hart and Rebecca Johnson went 1-4-6-10-21. Kohler was third in 20:22.95, and Lemons, Lewis, Eddington and Comba also broke 21 minutes.
“What gave us an edge is where we have a lot of depth and we had a lot of girls wanting to be part of next week (at state),” McMurtrey said. “It gave them a lot of motivation.”
Kohler, a sophomore, said she anticipated a tight race with Skyline, who has been right with the Tigers all season, and she expects the same level of competition at the state meet Nov. 2 at Portneuf Wellness Complex in Pocatello. She added that she and several of her teammates are friends with Skyline’s girls, so the rivalry does not feel fierce to them.
“Bishop Kelly and Twin Falls will be up there, but I think our biggest competition is Skyline,” Kohler said. “It’s so nice to be able to race them every week. Off the course, we’re really good friends. I feel like we give it all we’ve got when we race each other and give each other hugs off the course. I think it will be close again at state.”
Athay raced with a compression sleeve around his left shin and said he will be taking it easy leading up to the state meet. While the Idaho Falls coaches are not thinking about a potential 4A state title sweep next week — “If it happens, it happens,” McMurtrey said — Bright and Kohler said the runners are thinking about it. Kohler did not get to race at the Bob Conley Invitational earlier this month on the state course due to illness, but practiced on it over the summer, while Bright placed ninth at Bob Conley. Kohler and Bright both anticipate fast times on the course.
“I definitely think if we all run our best, we can pull it off again,” Bright said of the boys, who are two-time defending 4A state champions. “It’s gonna take all five of us to run our best. I think each of our girls want to win next week. Just like us (boys), if they run their best we can pull it off.”
Another ‘first’ occurred in the girls race with Harrison’s win in 19:14.06. The victory made the junior a three-time girls cross-country individual champion--a first for a Skyline girl according to longtime head coach Sean Schmidt--and the first 4A District 6 girl to do so since Blackfoot’s Rachel Cannon won every year between 2012 and 2014.
Freeman Park has been kind to Harrison, who has won five of the six races she has run there in three years, and it is arguably the course she knows best considering how often she runs there outside of meets.
“I was feeling kinda nervous right before the race,” Harrison said. “Then Coach (Schmidt) said, ‘You know this course.’ I was like, ‘I do. I know this course. I’ve practiced it so many times.’”
Right behind her for much of the race en route to placing second was Bonneville freshman Alivia Johnson, who also finished behind Harrison at Tiger-Grizz. Harrison said her mom keeps bringing up how Johnson reminds her of Harrison as a freshman, and she can relate to her.
“She’s doing awesome,” Harrison said. “I’m so excited for her. It’s always exciting to come into the high school scene. Coming from middle school, you don’t always know how it will go. It really helps you mentally (to do well as a freshman).”
The Idaho Falls boys and girls, the Skyline boys and girls, the Shelley girls and the Blackfoot boys qualified for the cross-country state championships as teams while the top 15 individual girls and top 14 individual boys qualified.
4A District 6 championships
Wednesday at Freeman Park
- full results on athletic.net
Top 3 teams to state
Team scores: 1. Idaho Falls 15, 2. Blackfoot 57, 3. Skyline 64, 4. Shelley 110, 5. Hillcrest 143, 6. Bonneville 158
Individuals (top 15 only)
1. Zac Bright (IF) 16:37.30; 2. Mitchell Athay (IF) 16:52.29; 3. Joseph Ereaux (IF) 16:57. 52; 4. Isaac Corgatelli (IF) 17:05.72; 5. Porter Elison (IF) 17:06.15; 6. Eli Gregory (BLAC) 17:10.81; 7. Jonathan Frew (SH) 17:13.11; 8. Bryton Zohner (SKY) 17:19.41; 9. Justin Whitehead (BLAC) 17:21.42; 10. Bryce Dennert (SKY) 17:36.89; 11. Austin Despain (BLAC) 17:45.30; 12. Eli Sorensen (SKY) 17:52.59; 13. Nate Blackwelder (BLAC) 17:53.06; 14. Ridge Wilding (SKY) 17:54.95; 15. John Dewey (IF) 18:04.00
Team scores: 1. Idaho Falls 32, 2. Skyline 39, 3. Shelley 114, 4. Hillcrest 118, 5. Blackfoot 118, 6. Bonneville 129
Individuals (top 15 only)
1. Sariah Harrison (SKY) 19:14.06; 2. Alivia Johnson (BONN) 19:21.00; 3. Hannah Kohler (IF) 20:22.95; 4. Macy Olson (SKY) 20:31.50; 5. Allison Lemons (IF) 20:39.88; 6. Adria Roberts (SKY) 20:43.95; 7. Jennalee Lewis (IF) 20:50.00; 8. Elanor Eddington (IF) 20:54.21; 9. Kamryn Comba (20:59.32) 10. Reagan Hart (SKY) 21:11.12; 11. Madi Mary (IF) 21:15.62; 12. Abbey Corgatelli (IF) 21:24.80; 13. Emma Clarke (IF) 21:26.80; 14. Mariah Cook (HILL) 21:38.09; 15. Clara Benson (SH) 21:44.32