The Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls is 486 feet above the Snake River. BASE jumpers bail off its east railing frequently enough that if you park on either end of the arched span and walk out on the east sidewalk you may witness this at intimate range. The west sidewalk looks down on two golf courses in the depths of this chasm that separates the city of Twin Falls from the desert plain.
From Canyon Springs Golf Course, in the bottom of the canyon, along the river, I looked up, out from the depths, at the elegant arch of the bridge and 2 giant waterfalls that leap, like BASE jumpers, over the cliffs into the depths. This is the dramatic venue of the Dani Bates Invitational Cross Country race. 28 high schools sent teams to this jagged gash in the Earth, last Thursday to mix it up on a very challenging course.
Teton found team success through the individual leap of faith that our athletes made in 4 races. The women’s JV benefitted from the return of Mackenzie Lee, who missed 2 weeks but seemed to find her mojo after the first thousand meters. Picking off competitors, Mackenzie built on her mounting confidence leading to a secure varsity position in the next race.
Liza Marcum raced out of her mind sectioning off 2:10 from her season’s best and 70 seconds faster than her previous best 5k; That’s a 22 second improvement per mile.
Addy Hansen peeled a minute and a quarter off her best race while her freshman class mate Lindsay Simmonds, trimmed 2:40.
By the time the men’s JV were lining up, the team buzz was contagious. All Teton harriers seemed to be finding a payday in their hard work of the last 3 weeks.
When they went by me at the halfway point, our top 8 men’s JV were separated by only 20 seconds and seemed to know they were controlling the race. John Woiwode was leading the team at that point, having passed Finn Adams, now pursuing. A cluster of our men zinged past me in such rapid succession that I couldn’t shout their names fast enough. I was yelling at their backs. If they could keep this up … Well …
Every man either PR’d or had a season best: John Woiwode, junior--best race ever by nearly a minute and launching himself back into the varsity ranks.
John divulged his experience when we spoke after his race, “I felt really strong through the entire thing. There wasn’t any point… that I felt tired at all… I started off at the front and I just stayed there.”
Finn Adams also recaptured his varsity standing with a commanding season best. Junior Gavin Behrens skipped the 20s altogether and took his PR from the 21s to 19:41 which was good enough for 12th in a field of 200 athletes. Ty Terry decimated his PR as did veterans Ben Adams, Seth Jensen and Cameron Edwards. Novices Hunter Wade, Oliver McKellar, Porter Collins and Leif Russon established new PRs and vets, Wyatt Johnson and Isaac Mattingly had their best times of the season helping the men’s JV cinch second out of 15 teams with a top 5 spread of only 59 seconds.
Sara Bagley and her varsity women came ready to replicate the previous Teton successes. Sara went under 21 for the first time this season. It was clear from the start she was hungry.
Reading Amelia Wilson’s face one might forget that the central experience of cross country is tolerating pain. She has never been a fast starter and she patiently drove a corps of maroon and orange through 2000 meters but then she launched forward.
I was positioned halfway along the course; the start of a grueling uphill that seems to get progressively steeper. It is too long to comprehend as one piece of work. When I saw Amelia leaning into that hill, she was like a woman possessed; no pain could invade her thoughts. Her mission was preeminent. When a runner looks out at the world like that, you can see that they are operating on a higher plateau.
Read the eyes of an endurance runner and you will know her soul, at that moment. Brooklyn Godfrey has inspired me with her growth this season. She is evolving into a champion with each week’s adventure. Her eyes shown none of the fear I saw at her first 5k. This statuesque freshman was ferocious on Thursday. Undaunted by the hill, she bridged forward over the rollers in the final third of the race, picking off opponents like a thoroughbred.
Like Brooklyn, Olivia Schnell dipped into the 24s this week and she did it by building an iron-clad race plan and holding herself to it. Once again, the eyes told the story; determination in the face of self-induced pain. Senior, Ripley Schultz wore the same determination in her gaze and finished as fleet as I’ve seen her this season.
Using contrast to make my point, two pairs of eyes struggled in that shaded Snake River Canyon. Eliza Wilson was sick with self-doubt at the start. She would get left by her fellows and reach the base of the hill absorbed by the pain... but not quite alone. Jenna Letham had started in great spirit but felt the monkey jump on her back at a thousand meters. Now, she was just in front of Eliza and suffering visibly. Eliza saw her purpose in that moment: move up to Jenna and help her.
No one can run your race for you but the sense of unity provided by a teammate on a long uphill grind lightens the burden to a degree that transcends physiology. Eliza and Jenna, the two underclassmen, ennobled each other’s efforts by sharing the labor. By the top of the hill, Jenna had made peace with the fact that it would be a tough day but she would get to the finish and live to tell the tale.
And Eliza now strode with new confidence, determined to make the best of the final 2000 meters, making a game of picking off the weakness in those ahead of her. The Wilsons raise sheep but in the final 5 minutes of her race, Eliza Wilson became--like her sister, Amelia--a wolf in the pack. After the race she glowed with the joy of the hunt.
The men’s varsity was a triumph for Teton as well, despite CG Woiwode’s timing chip not being read at the finish. The quirks of modern race technology are not perfect, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Our top seven came ready to work. Jack Dobbs and Lance Safiran both came with very different plans and a willingness to take risks. Lance would start in less of a panic than ever with the idea to have great legs in the final 2k. Jack Dodds, whose M. O. generally is to be relaxed and then build a progressive effort through the 5k, sprang forward in the first 1k. Lance was right behind Jack.
Humphrey Bogart might have commented on the beginning of a beautiful friendship. What I saw was 2 guys who both know how to lead this team and who both have been denied by the other in past disappointments. Now they were racing nearly side by side and flying past opposing harriers in dramatic fashion. Across the long rolly to the big downhill, Lance wrapped left around a Parma runner while Jack brushed by on his right.
“...They [Jack and Lance] were carrying each other through this race.” reported Coach Moosman later.
Up the long grade and through the last 2000 meters, no one had ever seen these two stride for stride for so long. Jack’s the guy with a reputation for a long acceleration to the line while long, lean, Lance was having an epiphany about the power of teamwork. How would this come out?
As Coach Moosman observed on the dynamics of team running, “It was wise of Lance to be with Jack for Lance to get the most out of his race.”
Jack had his best race of the season by 15 seconds per mile. Lance PR’d by 18 seconds over his very fast state race last year; two harriers having great races and helping their team improve while helping each other.
Safiran and Dobbs. Lance had the last ounce of UMPH with 150 meters to go nearly breaking 18 minutes in the process. Jack finished a mere 1.5 seconds back. Coach Moosman reflected on Lance’s achievement, “He ran the strongest second half he has of the season… a beautiful performance!”
James Allen was in the low 18s for the first time this season and Noah Machen pulled out his best time ever, 20 seconds behind James. CG and Sam Machen both lit up the inner canyon with PRs and Brennen Bates had a season record.
Both coaches expressed elation over the sweep of successes after 3 weeks of hard workouts and tough races. “I am blown away by the performances that we saw today after a 3 week period of hard training [and] hard races...” said Coach Kaufman.
Coach Moosman mimicked the sentiment, “We actually had three weeks of really hard work…. Everyone brought a level that we actually didn’t know they were capable of bringing today.”
Race Results for Teton Harriers
Sara Bagley, soph, 20:56
Amelia Wilson, sr, 24:00
Brooklyn Godfrey, fr, 24:19
Olivia Schnell, sr, 24:41
Eliza Wilson, soph, 25:18
Jenna Letham, fr, 25:46
Ripley Schultz, sr, 27:16
Mackenzie Lee, jr, 24:16
Liza Marcum, soph, 27:41
Addison Hansen, fr, 30:03
Macey Roberts, sr, 31:35
Lindsay Simmons, fr, 38:07
Lance Safiran, jr, 18:02
Jack Dobbs, sr, 18:03
James Allen, jr, 18:27
Noah Machen, soph, 18:47
CG Woiwode, soph, 19:24
Sam Machen, fr, 19:32
Brennen Bates, jr, 19:44
John Woiwode, jr, 19:07
Finn Adams, sr, 19:30
Gavin Behrens, jr, 19:41
Ty Terry, fr, 19:49
Ben Adams, soph, 20:06
Seth Jensen, jr, 20:17
Wyatt Johnson, jr, 20:17
Cameron Edwards, soph, 20:27
Porter Collins, fr, 23:34
Isaac Mattingly, jr, 24:02
Oliver McKellar, fr, 24:53
Hunter Wade, sr, 24:53
Leif Russon, soph, 26:03