When I started running 15 years ago, I would have never guessed high school cross-country would become what it is now.
I was a bookish 14 year-old with no previous demonstration of athletic potential prior to an outdoor science class project in eighth grade (that’s another story for another day), completely clueless about all things shoes and workout schedules. That is, until I started training with my former marathon runner dad the summer before starting high school, all the while frequently considering quitting. I remember being the only freshman in my high school’s program — a small 1A school in eastern North Carolina where most people joined cross-country to socialize and get out of class early on meet days — and how happy I was to reach my one and only state meet my junior year. The first copy of Youth Runner magazine I saw featured Alan Webb on the cover, and I was vaguely aware of Foot Locker Regionals and Nationals.
High school runner Marlowe believed you had to come from highly touted running havens like Oregon, California, Texas or New York to even have a fighting chance of competing in elite races, and reading about such races and athletes required much more effort then. Athletic.net and RunnerSpace.com were still a few years away from making their debut, the multimedia abundant websites DyeStat and MileSplit of today were simply dreams back then and I consumed most of my running reading material in hard copy form due to spotty dial-up Internet.
More than a decade later, my old sport has progressed to levels that continue to astound me while still maintaining such a tight knit community. Foot Locker has showcased future collegiate and professional stars, and Nike Team Nationals was revamped as Nike Cross Nationals to expand a high school national championship experience to include teams as well as individuals. The nation’s fastest times have become sub-15 for boys and sub-16 for girls, and reading about and watching such achievements is easier than ever in the smartphone era. On a more local level, we’ve gone from seeing a handful of girls run times in the low 18s in Idaho within the last seven seasons to 10 girls breaking the 18-minute barrier this season and boys going from sub-15:40 times to sub-15:20. Those times landed several Idaho teams and individuals into the national spotlight this season — the Boise girls, the Eagle girls, the Idaho Falls boys, the Rocky Mountain boys, Twin Falls’ Mattalyn Geddes, Mountain View’s Lexy Halladay, Borah's Nathan Green, Bishop Kelly’s Nick Russell and District 6 runners Stetson Moss of Thunder Ridge and Zach Erikson of Idaho Falls. The Boise girls, Eagle’s Ashley LaJocies, Green, Geddes and Moss concluded their seasons Saturday at NXN, and Halladay, Russell and Erikson compete this weekend at Foot Locker Nationals.
What an honor and a privilege it has been to watch my old sport redefine the norms, and to witness Idaho contribute to those accolades this season.
Coming up locally
Kelly Canyon Resort opens for the 2018-19 winter season at 12:30 p.m. today.
The Jackson Hole Snocross National takes place from Friday to Saturday at Snow King Mountain Resort. It can be watched live at https://snocross.com/jackson-hole-snocross-national/ , where results will also be posted.
Grand Targhee’s first fat bike race of the season is at 11 a.m. Saturday at the resort’s Nordic track. Participants can choose between racing the seven-mile course or 14-mile course.
Team USA Update
Mikaela Shiffrin won an FIS World Cup race for the third weekend in a row on Sunday in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, but this one was a rare ‘first’ for her in recent seasons. This time, she won her career first FIS World Cup super-G with a combined run time of 1:19.41 (a .77 victory margin) to become the alpine first skier in the world — male or female — to ever win FIS World Cups in all six currently contested alpine skiing disciplines. The 23 year-old two-time Olympian is the seventh woman in the world and the third American (joining Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller) to win five of the disciplines. These accomplishments come three years after her super-G debut on the World Cup tour. She currently leads the women’s alpine overall leaderboard with 489 total FIS points.
Team USA qualified 10 freeskiers to the U.S. Grand Prix finals scheduled for Friday at Copper Mountain Resort, Colo. Aaron Blunck led U.S. men’s halfpipe skiers with a second-place score of 91.75 in qualifications while Brita Sigourney led U.S. women with a third-place score of 88.75.