Over the years, the championship course at the Portneuf Wellness Center has proven to be a favorite of Teton harriers. The elevation--high enough to pose a challenge to the competition--combined with its very close mowing and its substantial hills seems to bring out the best of our Valley athletes who are accustomed to training long steep grades at 6200 feet.
The young are restless to prove up. Some have the inclination to challenge the veterans who know the game of cross country just enough to become a little complacent.
Veteran runners can grow dispassionate about their team position and may seek to repeat the performance they have learned in previous races; they may seek comfort in what they know how to do instead of rattling the machinery and pushing the tachometer into the red zone.
Remember always that endurance running is, at its essence, a sort of masochistic pressing of the body to the edge of pain and beyond... and holding it there. Goals are often surpassed by disregarding pain and risk.
The weather last Thursday was ideal: cool and calm. With only 2 races remaining before the District Championship, there was a little revolution in the air.
Freshmen and novices have been taking notes all season and now have the fitness and sinew to execute a coup. Some are hungry to explore further back into the cave of pain Hard work has been its own reward up until now. ‘What if ....?’
Freshmen, Madeline Pentz and Kalia Moncur had raced only 5 times between the two of them (Maddie twice and Kalia thrice) when they stepped to the line in the women’s JV event.
This class of Teton women have been, on the whole, reluctant to start fast. So it was on Thursday with Maddie and Kalia joined by sophomore novice, Catherine Torres starting slowly.
The 3-pack fed off the camaraderie. Behind them, Falena Hertz was dosing on adrenaline and keeping the trio close. At 1000 meters, Madeline wanted more. Despite her youth, she seems to thrive on the physical test and clearly understands how to deal with pain.
She started a progression in which she picked off one opponent after another. This would continue for the remaining 4000 meters of the race.
“I got a kick of adrenaline… and I just picked one jersey ahead and passed it, picked and passed it…”
The cruelest hill then rears up in the final quarter of the course. Most mortals calculate based on pure survival but not Ms Pentz. I happened to watch her drive into the base of this long incline and dispatch the runners immediately ahead as if feeding off their weakness.
Recalling the discomfort, Maddie said “It started getting very hard and you know that you’re pretty close to the finish so you just have that kick and your body’s not gonna let you NOT finish…”
After her progressive expenditure, she would be excused in the final 150 meters if she had rubber legs. Not rubber however, as she imitated Mercury passing still more jerseys in her flight to the line.
Kalia fought nobly to hold Maddie’s slipstream through the first 2 miles and came away just 4 seconds off her PR. Mirthful, Catherine has successfully improved her best in 4 out of five races. Keeping Kalia in sight helped her lop off another 11 seconds per mile.
Falena, who was clearly on a mission from the gun, maintained her fury to the end and realized a 3-season, career PR one minute and 14 seconds better than ever before; that’s 25 seconds per mile faster than she’d ever travelled. This was the single hottest data point produced by the junior class of Timberwolves this week.
Taylor Amey, who had earned a spot on the varsity last week found the gumption to throw down another PR. At the front of the varsity pack, Sarah Bagley continued her quest to race back to form.
The standout performance in the women’s varsity was turned in by Beta female Mackenzie Lee who finished a mere 8 seconds and 3 places back from Sarah. It was a 36 second improvement over her crescendo at State last year. The senior gains confidence with every race and may be plotting a shakeup of the podium at District and State.
Junior Noah Machen has struggled to hold his spot in the team’s top tier. He and senior Gavin Behrens and sophomore Ty Terry attacked aggressively from the gun in the men’s JV race. Their trio fed off each other, racing always at the pace of the fastest runner of the moment. After a mile, Gavin would slip from the bond but continue the revolutionary streak by besting two of his brothers in the varsity race and peeling back his best performance of the season.
Noah and Ty kept to the plan and each ended the day with times that displaced 3 of their varsity brothers. They finished only 5 seconds from each other and for Ty, it was a PR by a minute. He and Noah will be back in the varsity ranks this week as a result of their challenge to convention.
Gideon Wilson, Rocky Morales and Carl Ripplinger all had notable performances as did Jacob Allen and Frankie Tuttle.
The vanguard of the varsity men had an epiphany last week when they raced together for 5 kilometers. This week, CG Woiwode and James Allen started with less bluster, perhaps assuming Lance Safiran would just turn over the keys to the car. Not likely if you know Lance.
Lance gapped them after only a quarter mile. CG would claw his way back to finish one second and 1 place behind Lance. Both these men scored best times ever. James suffered the deficit throughout the race and finished 3rd man with a hard-charging John Woiwode in pursuit.
Fifth man Ben Adams raced his best time by 11 seconds to complete the team scoring. Ben has been consistently trimming time each week and is arguably the veteran Lobo most likely to improve week after week. Good thing for him. He will have Ty and Noah to contend with in their next race.
The next hunt for the Timberwolf pack is in Firth on the day of publication, Wednesday, Oct 14th. Races start and finish at the track.
The varsity races will go out first with the women racing at 4PM and the men at 4:30. The JV women begin their hunt at 5 and the men at 5:30.
Just an inside tip from an old dog, long-in-tooth. I anticipate a delay of schedule after the first race because the course design requires that slower runners must cross the line before the next race begins; just sayin’.
The District races which determine team and individual qualification for the state race will be held at the Rexburg Municipal Golf Course on Wed. the 21st. Race times were not published as of this writing.
Results from the season can be studied at the athletic.net website which contains the accumulated data for Autumn cross country and Spring track and field in Idaho, going back to to 2006. Before that, ya gotta know somebody.