Truly there is power in numbers in North Idaho high school cross country this season.
The pack undoubtedly will outshine the individual runners representing the local teams who hope to make the short trip to Farragut State Park for the state meet later next month.
Here’s a look at area teams:
“We’ve worked on our pack from day one, and we’ve got them all running pretty close to each other,” Lake City coach Donna Messenger said.
An old cross country cliche states a team is only as good as its fifth runner, which is the last runner who counts in the scoring. It’s always helpful to have a deep pool of talent to draw the fifth runner from, so the nod for early season favorite in the Inland Empire League is Sandpoint and its 65-runner pool.
“This is the largest group I’ve ever coached and the complexion of the team is solid,” Bulldogs coach Cheryl Klein.
Sandpoint will be led by junior Mark Allen for the boys and senior Emily Baker for the girls. Help will come from sophomores Tim Wolch and Justin Schuck. Baker also will get a boost from sophomores Francy Piehl and Nicolle Maloney.
“Our sophomore varsity runners are naturally talented and just need experience,” Klein said.
Klein said it should be a very interesting season and her team should be in the hunt for regional titles by the end of the year. More immediately though, the Bulldogs are hosting the Sandpoint Invitational Friday at Hidden Lakes Country Club, the first scoring meet of the season.
Lake City should be the Bulldogs’ toughest competition this year as the Timberwolves boys team will attempt to defend its regional title from last year with a group of young talent.
“The boys should be as strong or stronger than last year because we’ve improved in the fourth- and fifth-place times,” Messenger said.
The top boys runner is freshman Max Schmidt, who will attempt to replace one of last year’s local stars, Bryce Knight.
Schmidt will be pushed by seniors Mike Keith and Charlie Miller, and juniors Jason Clifford, Chris Costello and Nick Schmidt.
The girls team will be led by senior Christie Tackett and sophomore Libby Gerber. Sophomores Deborah Moyer, Julie Vieselmeyer and Madeline Gonzalez should contribute.
“Both teams have been in the weight room and that has helped them improve from last year,” said Messenger. “We’ve got the pack running together well and a lot of depth will help us.”
Lewiston got a smaller turnout than usual this year, but the Bengals should be tough as usual behind freshman Hallie Warnock.
“Hallie is a mentally tough runner and I think she should lead the district this year and place at state,” Darrell May said.
Warnock will be assisted by sophomores Rieonda Hoageboom and Alana Phillips. This is one team that won’t run in a pack as Warnock will take off and her teammates will do their best to catch her along with the rest of the field.
The boys team is led by seniors Aron Taylor and Romney Hoageboom. Junior Nick Rynearson and freshman Adam Lenzmeier should round out a small but competitive team.
Post Falls coach Sue Sippl-Lauer has the Trojans ready for the Sandpoint race and is looking forward to seeing how they score as a team after competing at nonscoring meets early in the year.
“We ran in the All-Valley Invitational and had some real positive results against some tough competition from Spokane,” said Sippl-Lauer.
As with most of the IEL teams, young talent leads the way for Post Falls in sophomore Jason Kunz and freshman Tiffany Moate. The Trojans have runners with racing experience, but not at the varsity level.
Freshman Justin Thayer and senior Shane Therrian have been keeping pace with Kunz early in the season. Moate should get help from seniors Cristy Campbell, Ambre Richards and Jennifer Glaser and sophomore Mandi Elmose.
Sippl-Lauer said she feels her team knows what needs to be done to have a successful year and should improve up to the regional meet.
Coeur d’Alene is suffering from a small turnout and will need runners to get healthy to have a chance to win this year.
The boys team will miss standout and graduate Chris Cole, but should be consistent with the 2-5 runners in a tight pack behind senior Adam Grace. The pack should consist of juniors Andrew Dubuisson, Troy Hughes and Kyle Hart. Freshman Kavid Seccomb should run in the second spot.
Coach Kent Eggleston said he feels his girls team has the potential to be strong if they get healthy. Last year’s No. 1 runner Kari Newby is back, but she’s injured. Eggleston hopes his daughter, senior Carrie Eggleston, and junior Trisha Knoll step up along with Kari’s sister, Gina Newby, to fill the last scoring spots.
Bonners Ferry is the class of the Intermountain League behind strong boys and girls who will employ a strategy of letting the top runner breakaway and having the rest of the team work together in trying to catch them.
The boys’ breakaway will be sophomore Josh Sheven, who coach Harry O’Dell is confident will break the 17-minute mark by the end of the year. Chasing him will be juniors Winter Braden, Jarred Ekstrom and team captain Delray Romero.
The girls team has not been healthy, but will contend by district with a strong group of close-knit runners.
Junior Lany Dowell will be the breakaway, but should be closely followed by her sister, freshman Lilla Dowell. Freshman Crystal Lederhous and team captain, junior Jaime Garten will also be running down Dowell.
“I’ve never seen a team more banded together as these girls.” O’Dell said. “There’s a lot of misery and pain involved in cross country, but when you work together, that’s what it’s all about.”
O’Dell said he feels it will be a two-horse race in the IML between his Badgers and the Moscow Bears. The Bears have the top two individual runners in Kenny Benjamin and Yvonne Shea.
St. Maries senior Jeremy Badgett, one of just two Lumberjack runners, will challenge for top honors. He placed 17th at state last year.
Lakeland should be improved in boys and girls using pack mentality to improve times. In the past, the Hawks have centered around one runner but this year it’s all about the team.
“Times have improved from last year and I see us getting stronger and running as a team instead of an individual,” said coach Mike Normand.
The Hawks boys are led by sophomores Reid Houck and Caleb Weller. Junior James Primmer should also be strong. The girls are led by junior Natalie Meyer. Senior Kimmie Dengel should push Meyer all season and sophomore Shannon Booth is coming on strong.
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