John Woiwode led a chase group of five Timberwolves across the line in a 15 second flurry that kept South Fremont’s fourth man from capitalizing on a plot to heist the second team qualifying slot to the Idaho Cross Country Championship Race in Pocatello on October 30th.
Going into the race, the expectation was that the Sugar Salem Diggers would dominate the meet and well, they did. But even though District Six is historically deep at the state level, one team was destined to be left home. And at this critical juncture, CG Woiwode was left in the den to nurse an illness while the Wolfpack went on its most critical hunt.
Teton and South were dueling for the runner-up team and each man would need to race down red jerseys. The Cougars were plotting a counter strategy, of course.
The wind had actually intensified from the end of the women’s race. Watching the start from 400 meters, I had to lay prone in the grass, with my elbows propped in order to steady my binoculars.
The course consisted of 2 loops around the municipal golf course in Rexburg. Going out was great with the nor’wester helping all harriers equally to lengthen their strides but the turnaround marked the beginning of a battle with an invisible foe. Gusts buffeted the runners enough to throw them off their balance, force them into an inefficient posture and even grab their legs at times and whip the right foot against the left calf.
Early on, Lance Safiran fought to hang with the Sugar Salem Diggers as did South’s number 1 athlete, Jens Christensen. James Allen was near enough to Lance to see him but was never able to close that gap.
South had 2 determined brothers, a junior and a freshman--ironically by the name Stalker--racing side by side and seeking out maroon and orange jerseys. The Cougars’ 4th and 5th men were seeded far enough back to put the race on the shoulders of our top 4.
Lance’s personal quest this season has been to complete the second half strongly. The practice paid off in the fierce wind.
The final 200 meters directed runners straight into the typhoon. Lance held his own and finished 45 seconds and 5 places behind Christensen. James Allen crossed 13 seconds later--advantage Teton. Then the Stalkers crossed--advantage South.
Then, John Woiwode took command of that cluster of five Teton harriers--three scorers joined by sixth and seventh men who displaced South’s fourth and 5th.
All year, that competition for 7 varsity spots behind our top three, constituted the quiet strength of the Wolfpack. By season finale, 6 men, from sophomores to seniors had trained and raced in such close proximity for so long that now running into a windstorm became a bonding opportunity, like running a gauntlet with your best amigos.
Six seconds behind John, Brennen Bates with the effortless stride… five more seconds and sophomore Ty Terry, having learned how to press the tachometer in the final 1000 meters led Ben Adams, running the best race of his career and Noah Machen who is renowned among his teammates for striding through life with the utmost dignity.
Back only six seconds was Gavin Behrins who fought it out with the 4th Coug. unsuccessfully at the very end but in doing so Gavin easily bested South’s 5th.
The Timberwolves go to the state contest ranked 4th based on times behind a dominant Sugar, Snake River and Timberlake. They will need every man to race his best; 17 minutes of sacrifice above all other concerns.
On the eve of Halloween at the Portneuf Wellness Center, Teton will toe the line in the 3A contest. Family and fans must have a pass to enter the facility but the race will be accessible in statistical format, at least, if not visually. The women’s race, with Mackenzie Lee in the mix, will race at 9AM and the 3A men will go off about 9:45.