The 2021 Teton High cross country is the largest in the school’s history.

This size and depth imbues practice and meets with a great energy, said Coach Mindy Kaufman.

The team was bummed last week when the Bob Firman meet had to be canceled due to Covid. It would have been an opportunity to put feet on the state course at Eagle Island. The coaches scrambled to add a Linn Canyon home meet to the calendar, but other teams didn’t sign up for the opportunity, so the Timberwolves instead headed to Rexburg on Sept. 23 for the Madison Invitational.

While seniors Sara Bagley (who has broken the top ten at XC state twice in her career) and CG Woiwode (an essential member of the team that Teton sent to state last year) are reliably the team leaders, there’s some jostling in the pack as other Timberwolves try to break into the ranks. At Thursday’s meet, freshman Zane Lindquist took 8th with a 5K time just under 19 minutes, and freshman Lucy Bates claimed 10th with a time of 23:24.

“The freshman boys are really competitive with each other,” Kaufman said. “They’re putting pressure on the upperclassmen. There’s more depth on the women’s side this year, and it’s cool to see such a strong pack of women, with younger runners making a name for themselves.”

Fellow coach Caleb Moosman agreed. “It’s a really young team, both in terms of age and also a lot of runners who are new to the sport. The young’uns can be unfocused but the veterans can’t be complacent, because everyone is getting in the groove. We feel like we’re really on the verge of discovering a new level of achievement.”

There are two more meets before the state championship. Only two teams from District 6 will qualify, with the third only able to send individuals. It’s a tough pill to swallow when Teton competes with some of the strongest runners in the state right here in this conference.

“When we were setting goals for the year, we realized we needed to reevaluate what this team should be achieving. Our two main goals, we decided, are cohesion and unity, and remembering: ‘hey babe, just run,’” Kaufman said, referencing a quote from Olympic runner Emma Coburn. “When we achieve those goals, we’ll find success.”

While running is the primary focus of the cross country team, the coaches recognize that school sports can provide something more than exercise for student athletes.

“Last year it was like we were all just holding on for dear life,” Moosman said. “But this year a significant number of kids who are coming to practice—it’s clear there are stresses that they and their family are going through. And we’re stressed too. For that being the case, we’re still seeing a lot of high quality dedication and success, but we’re trying to create a place where the importance of the individual isn’t lost. We want the kids to know, we care about you as a person before you as a runner. The diversity of kids we pull, and their ability to do the work together—it’s very healthy for all of them to have that on this team.”

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