When it comes to cross country, Lake City, Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint have had a fair share of state success in recent years.
That won’t change this fall.
Tiny Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy’s boys and girls joined the fun last year, taking third respectively at state.
Here is a look at each team.
Kinsey Gomez grabbed much attention early during the season a year ago as a freshman.
She told anyone who would listen that she wanted to challenge for a state championship.
Then she did it, shocking the 5A state field in general and Borah junior Nicole Nielsen in particular by capturing the title at the finals in Idaho Falls.
Now comes perhaps the most difficult challenge for Gomez – defending the state title as a known quantity. She can’t sneak up on anyone this year.
CdA coach Cathy Compton says Gomez is up for the challenge.
“She comes back in better shape than she was last year,” Compton said. “Kinsey is a passionate runner. This is what she does and loves.”
Joining Kinsey are juniors Amanda Buttrey and Melissa Bondra and sophomores Chelsi LeGault and Brooke Schifano. Also battling for a varsity spot is versatile junior Dayna Drager, who chose cross country over volleyball this fall, and freshmen Elizabeth Armon, Kasey Hinders and Brianna Ball.
“We’ll have a solid girls team,” Compton said. “We have a good mix of old and new.”
Compton is also high on her boys team. Returners include seniors Nick Pierson, Ian Lawlor and Luke Syzmanki, junior Andrew Stone and sophomore Derek Arnold.
Watch out for freshman Cody Curtis, who may be the Viks’ male version of Gomez from a year ago.
“He’s going to be among the top runners in the state,” Compton said. “We want to get a state trophy. With our talent, we want to stay healthy and focused.”
Junior C.J. Helbling took third at state last year, finishing just behind senior teammate John Coyle, who took second.
Helbling expects to challenge defending state champ Eric Fitzpatrick of Boise.
“He came in pretty fit from the summer,” LC coach Justin Taylor said. “If he stays healthy, everything will take care of itself this season.”
LC has taken home a state trophy each of the last two years, but this will be a rebuilding year of sorts for Taylor.
The only other state qualifier who is back is sophomore Dan Scott. Seniors Cody Palmer, Beau Lee and Andrew Asper, junior Greg Drapeau and sophomores Nick Bell, Nick Titus and Taylor Ward are in the mix for varsity spots, Taylor said.
Taylor has a tight pack among his girls. Seniors Molly Mitchell, Emily Wyatt and Ali Carpenter, juniors Rhianna Grossman and Ashley Eachon and freshman Alia Lacroix give Taylor a solid crew.
“We didn’t lose anybody,” Taylor said. “We’re not super deep, but we’ll compete all season.”
Grossman finished 11th and Mitchell 12th at state last year.
“They came back stronger this year,” Taylor said.
Coeur d’Alene Charter
The Panthers moved up a classification to 2A, but that doesn’t matter in cross country. All the 2A and 1A schools compete in the same division.
The boys were dealt an early blow when junior Roy Ruskovich didn’t shake a case of mononucleosis that was first diagnosed last spring and kept him out of track.
“He’s still not back at a level where he can train,” coach Lewis Watkins said. “It’s a huge loss.”
Senior Luke Iott, who placed 16th at state last year, will lead Charter. Junior Brendan Foster also returns.
Others challenging for varsity spots are junior Graeme Lauer and freshmen Jacob Stadley, Cameron Culp and Ben Clark.
The girls will be led by junior Alyssa Kim, who was 12th at state last year, and sophomore Sadie Iott, who placed 20th last season.
“I’ve got five girls who could make the boys varsity,” Watkins said.
Other girls to watch are sophomores Claire Johnson, Katie Livingston, Paige Kelly, Sam Brandvein and Alex Ward.
“We’re about eight deep,” Watkins said.
Senior Megan Bartlett will be out for a repeat.
Bartlett stormed to the 4A state title last year, and she returns hungry for a second championship.
“Her focus and motivation is the highest it’s ever been,” Sandpoint coach Matt Brass said. “It’s been fun to watch her.”
Also returning with experience are the Vardell twins, seniors Vicky and Kat.
Junior Hope Woodruff, a state alternate last year, and sophomore Molly Burgstahler give Sandpoint a solid top five.
“I don’t feel right now we’re as strong as we were two years ago when we took second at state,” Brass said. “But I definitely think they have that potential. I look for leadership to pull them along.”
Juniors Tim Householter and Galen MacDonald and sophomore Danny Pfeifer will lead the boys team. Others to watch are seniors Jeremiah Prummer and Matt Sisson.